Often considered one of Harold Pinter’s most ambiguous plays, The Homecoming explores issues of sex, power, and the female role in a cryptic, yet enthralling, manner. The action takes place in an old house in north London. It is the home of an all-male family, presided over by the abusive patriarch, Max. Max is a retired butcher, whilst his mild-mannered brother, Sam, continues to work as a chauffeur. Max’s two sons, Lenny and Joey, make up this volatile household, where every man vies for supremacy. Into this highly charged atmosphere enter Teddy and Ruth. Teddy is Max’s eldest son, a Professor of Philosophy currently living in America with his wife, Ruth. Teddy has brought his wife home to visit the family for the first time since they married. His literal ‘homecoming’ becomes more of a symbolic homecoming for Ruth than anyone anticipates. From the outset, the cracks in Teddy and Ruth’s marriage are obvious. While he insists his wife is tired and must rest, she leaves him to walk the streets at night alone. When Max first meets Ruth, he presumes she is a prostitute, emphasizing the type of life the men are used to leading. However, once Max accepts that Ruth is Teddy’s wife, he welcomes her into the family a little too openly. Recognizing the competitive relationship between Max and his sons, Ruth begins a sexual game with them all, teasing and provoking her in-laws as they taunt each other about their sexual prowess. Soon Max and Lenny--who seems to be a pimp--hatch a plan to keep Ruth in London with them, earning her keep as a prostitute. Powerless, Teddy resolves to return to America and their three sons without his wife. Yet, as Ruth sits, with her in-laws prostrated at her feet, it is clear who now holds the power in this household and the future is unclear for all.
The Homecoming guide sections