Monday, September 26, 2011

Homecoming: Character Dynamics

A lot of the family relations in The Homecoming are concerned with power. Discuss how the power dynamic plays out between at least two pairs of characters.

The Homecoming by Harold Pinter is a play like nothing you would ever expect. The characters are all trying to dominate each other in a variety of different ways, except maybe Sam. Max uses threats and violence to exhibit his power. Lenny tells stories of his abuse to a women. Joey is trying to become a boxer and also tells a story about taking control of a woman. Teddy is subtly trying to gain control of his wife's actions and the situations that arise. Finally, Ruth is trying to gain control of all the males.
The Crescent Theatre's production of The Homecoming*.

The relationship between Teddy and Ruth is very dynamic because he is not as aggressive as the rest of the males in his family. Ruth, however, is. Instead of using force or violence to do so, she uses her sexuality. Not something a husband would want his wife to be doing. 

Ruth and Teddy in the Royal Theatre's production*.

When they first arrive at the house, he tries to get her to go to sit down and then to go to bed. Ruth will have none of it and easily asserts her power over him with the fact that she will do as she pleases, including taking a walk late at night. Teddy ends up going to bed and waiting for his wife to return home, a role reversal from most of the plays we have been reading. Lenny asks him a question about philosophy, which is the subject Teddy teaches, but he is unable to answer. Ruth tries to answer, though it draws attention to her sexuality. His intellect has been defeated by her sexuality. It is from this scene that Ruth starts kissing Joey and Lenny right in front of her husband, but he is powerless to stop her. He decides that they need to leave, but Ruth does not want to.
Ruth and  Joey on the couch in The Crescent's production*.
In the next scene, Sam reveals to Teddy that the latter was the favorite of both Sam and Teddy's mother. This could be because Sam and Teddy have a similar personality. They are both passive, allowing the rest of the men to have power over them. The audience also sees Teddy waiting for his wife, who is upstairs in the bedroom with Joey. When Joey, Lenny, and Max begin planning on keeping Ruth, Teddy does not have the power to stop them or Ruth. He leaves her future up to her and leaves, without asserting any influence, power, or authority over anyone; which may be why he moved and is seldom heard from in the family. 

Ruth, Teddy, and Lenny in the American Conservatory Theatre's production.*
Pinter uses Ruth and Teddy to show two different dynamics. Ruth has no problem fitting into the family where the main goal is taking power and having authority over another. She is able to use her sexuality as a means to gain control over all of the males, including getting her own three-bedroom flat, maid, and new wardrobe. Teddy, on the other hand, cannot take the power and assert his authority over anyone. He is forced to react to other's control, which drives him to cut his stay with his family short and leave his wife with his family to become a prostitute.

* All images were obtained through Google Images.

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