Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1362
The play opens in the living-room. Pam has brought Len home for sex. She insists on using the living-room because her bed isn’t made. They have just met and when Len asks Pam her name, she says, ‘‘Yer ain’ arf nosey.’’ They have trouble getting comfortable. Harry, her father, comes in and goes out again. Len is somewhat disconcerted, but Pam doesn’t seem to mind the interruption at all. Pam and Len continue their sex play, Harry again puts his head in, and Pam and Len offer him candy (laced with sexual innuendo). Finally, they hear Harry leave the house for work and as Pam undoes Len’s belt, Len says, ‘‘This is the life.’’
Scene Two takes place in a park near the flat. Len and Pam are in a boat on an otherwise bare stage. The audience learns that Len is now a boarder in the flat. They also speak of their relationship, the fact that Harry and Mary haven’t spoken in so many years Pam can’t remember when the silence started or why, that they had a boy during World War II and that he was killed by a bomb in this park. Fred, the boat handler, calls them in and makes crude sexual jokes. Len jokes back, and it is obvious that Pam is attracted to Fred.
Pete, Barry, Mike, and Colin meet in the park. Pete is dressed in a suit because he is going to the funeral of a boy he killed with his van—intentionally, he says. He openly seeks the admiration of the others and they do admire him for the killing and the fact that he got away with it. They tease Barry and there is lots of low and crude sexual humor. Len comes in and Colin recognizes him from school years before. Mary enters with groceries, Len goes to help her, and there are more crude sexual jokes among the gang.
Scene Four takes place in the living-room. Mary puts food on the table, Len eats, and Harry dozes in the armchair. Pam enters in her slip, turns on the TV and puts on makeup. The TV doesn’t work properly and no one knows how to adjust it. The baby starts to cry off-stage and continues to cry throughout the scene. No one does anything to comfort the baby. The only other actions consists of bickering about where Pam should dress and small domestic concerns. Fred arrives and Pam nags him about being late and they leave, Len clears the table and Harry tells Len it is better for him to sleep with his door closed so he won’t hear Pam and Fred in her room. The baby continues to scream uncomforted.
Pam is sick in bed and Len tries to comfort her. She is pining for Fred, who has dumped her. Len fetches the baby and Pam wants nothing to do with it; she hasn’t looked at it for weeks. (It is worth noting that throughout the play the baby is referred to only as ‘‘it’’ by all the other characters.) Len has bribed Fred with tickets for a football game so he will visit Pam.
The park. Fred is fishing and chatting with Len about his equipment and how to bait a hook—all done with cheap sexual innuendo. Len has been fired from his job for staying away from work to care for Pam. Pam comes in with the baby in its pram. She tries to make Fred promise to call on her and he evades her. The baby is drugged with aspirin to keep it quiet and it has had pneumonia once. Pam stamps out in a fit of temper, leaving the baby there, and Len goes after Pam. One by one the rest of the gang wander on talking about sex and making cheap jokes. Barry spots the baby and after violently shoving the pram at Pete, they begin to tease the baby by pinching it. The others, including Fred, join in pinching it, spitting on it, rubbing its face in its own excrement, and finally stoning it to death. After they leave, Pam returns and wheels the pram off without looking into it.
Fred is in a jail cell and Pam visits him. Fred is outraged because he was attacked by a group of housewives when being brought to jail. Pam feels no animus towards Fred and Fred feels no responsibility for the murder of the baby. He blames Pam for having the baby in the first place and for bringing it to the park. He blames gangs of vandals and even blames the police for not doing their job and stopping the murder. Len brings cigarettes to Fred and, after Pam leaves, tells Fred that he had watched the whole thing.
Harry is ironing clothes in the living-room and chatting with Len. Len has a job again and Pam is still obsessed with Fred. Pam enters drying her hair and immediately accuses Harry and Len of stealing her Radio Times magazine. She and Len engage in a silly but verbally violent spat.
Len is in the living-room cleaning his shoes when Mary enters in her slip and gets ready to go to the movies with a friend. Mary tells Len to feel free to take women to his room. She tears her stocking near the top and asks Len to sew it while she still has it on. While he is sewing them, Harry enters. He watches Len and Mary and then leaves. Len asks Mary to stay in for the evening, but she says she must go.
Len and Pam are sitting at a table in a cafe waiting for Fred to arrive with his mates for a breakfast to celebrate his release from prison. Pam tries to get Len to leave but he won’t go. Fred enters accompanied by the gang and his new girl, Liz. The jokes are still cheaply sexual and stale. Pam attempts to force herself on Fred and is dismissed and humiliated. Liz continually asks Fred what it is like ‘‘inside.’’ Len asks Fred what it felt like when he was killing the baby. Finally, the gang and Liz go off and Len tries once more to reconcile with Pam and once more is rebuffed.
In the living-room. The table is set for tea. Mary claims the teapot is hers and pours Harry’s cup of tea on the floor. They have a verbal fight in which Mary claims most of the things in the house are hers and Harry accuses Mary of being ‘‘filthy’’ with Len. Mary hits him in the head with the teapot. When Harry tells Pam the fight was because Len had Mary’s dress up, Len shakes him and Pam cries and blames all her troubles—even the death of the baby—on Len. Len says he will move out.
Len is on the floor of his bedroom listening to Pam in the room below. Harry enters dressed in white long underwear and white socks with his head in a skull cap of bandages. Harry has come to say goodnight. Len says he never touched Mary and when he points out that Harry and Mary had a row over it, Harry says, ‘‘She had a row.’’ Harry talks of his time in World War II. He remembers it mostly as peace and quiet with a couple of blow-ups. He asks Len not to move out. Harry plans to move out, but when it suits him, not Mary. In the meantime, he will retreat to his room more.
The living-room. Len is fixing a chair, Mary is clearing the table, Pam sits on the couch reading her Radio Times, and Harry is filling out his football betting slip. The only dialogue in the scene is when Len asks Pam to fetch his hammer. She does not. Len continues trying to fix the chair and the others continue their empty activities.