Half a Pint of Pinter- The Homecoming
(MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW)
A relatively short play which was first published in 1965, The Homecoming is typical of Pinter’s style: ambiguous and tense.
Drawing on subtle yet very dark humour; The Homecoming explores the role of women and extreme family relationships whilst also keeping these relationships relatable to a reader/audience.
Personally, I think that The Homecoming is really interesting and thought-provoking read and certainly a postmodern classic in my eyes. Others clearly and thankfully agree as this play that been thoroughly scrutinised since its first performance almost half a century ago!
Something resembling a synopsis:
The story involves four men from London who all live separate lives together in the family house.
As the story progresses and the tension between the family members continues to stay at such a high level that, as a reader, you begin to feel in the middle of a tug of war; the youngest son Teddy returns to his family home from America with his wife, Ruth, who the others did not know existed.
Once the ‘homecomers’ begin to settle in, Ruth gives some ambiguous remarks about the nature of their marriage, to the other men, who take advantage of the fact that the marriage is not as strong as Teddy would have them believe.
A series of sexual encounters between Ruth and the brothers take place, which are described quite openly to the others and Teddy too who seems, rather incredibly, unaffected.
Whilst she is upstairs, the father Max suggests that Ruth stays with them in London and support the family by making money through prostitution, which Teddy agrees to half-jokingly before leaving.
Ruth stays with the family as a result of this ambiguous muse and the end scene sees the family gathering round her peacefully, for the first time, seeming like a more ‘ordinary’ family.
Things to Ponder on Pinter:
- The title: The Homecoming. It gives off generally positive connotations of togetherness, circularity and contentment doesn’t it? One might expect jubilant celebrations or a warm welcome when Teddy returns. But this is not the case. Perhaps something to question is the ‘home’ part and what makes a house a home. And also whose homecoming it is? Is it Teddy’s or is Ruth coming home to a place where she is more familiar with the set up than she is back in the USA.
- The way Pinter uses pauses as a way of increasing tension is, in my opinion, certainly worth pause for thought! It seems every few lines, ‘Pause’ is written as a stage direction and yet every time a ‘Pause’ is totally necessary. In some cases in the dialogues, the less that is said, the more effective the discourse. This coupled with short statements and simple questions leads to a very tense atmosphere that only alleviates at the very end of the play.
- The role of women is a key theme explored here and I interpreted it as showing the power of women, despite the circumstances Ruth is in. Although she is used as a pawn in the game of the male power struggle throughout, the end scene is in stark contrast to the others. To continue with my metaphor, she becomes the queen of the chess board, with everyone gathering around her and I think this signifies the men’s desire for a comforting female figure in their lives, so as to unite them.
- Another key issue to perhaps consider is the genre of the play. I find it hard to say that the play sits comfortably in one category because it has features of both realistic and absurdist theatre. One might say it was more realistic because it has only one story thread and it is has a very realistic, familiar setting and yet the thinking of human senselessness and lack of meaning to life fits in well with an absurdist mentality.
But what do you think?
Do you agree with my rather rudimentary remarks?
Do you think that The Homecoming does fit into a specific genre?
Are there other important themes that I have completed ignored (most likely)?