Literature Study GuidesHomecomingAct 1 Section 2 Summary

Homecoming | Study Guide

Cynthia Voigt

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Homecoming | Act 1, Section 2 | Summary



Later that night Max's eldest son, Teddy, a man in his mid-30s, arrives at the house with his wife, Ruth. They let themselves in with Teddy's key, for the lock has not been changed. Teddy notes that everyone must be asleep. He sneaks upstairs to his old room and then comes down to report to Ruth that it is empty and his bed is still there. He offers her a drink, which she refuses. She then sits down, tired, and Teddy tells her she is sitting in his father's chair. It is late at night, and Teddy suggests they "can go to bed if you like" and see his father in the morning. After a pause, Ruth asks if he wants to stay. He thinks they have to stay for a few days at least and dismisses Ruth's concern that their children are missing them.

Teddy wanders around the room. He then says Ruth can go to bed, but he is feeling awake and will stay up for a while. She wants to stay up. When he changes his mind and suggests going up to bed, Ruth then decides she wants to get some fresh air. Teddy doesn't want to take a stroll outside, but he hands her the key, promising to wait up for her. They kiss, and she leaves. As Teddy watches her through the window, Lenny, unable to sleep, enters. The brothers greet each other: "Hello, Lenny. Hello, Teddy." "Some kind of tick" keeps waking him up. Teddy asks if he has a clock in his room, and Lenny says yes.

Teddy says he's come back for a few days, and the brothers talk a bit before agreeing to talk more at breakfast. They turn off the lights, and Teddy goes upstairs. Lenny goes offstage and then reenters, looks out of the window, and turns on a lamp. He is holding a clock. He looks at it, lights a cigarette, and smokes. Ruth comes in.

Lenny introduces himself and offers her a drink, noting she must be connected to his brother. She says she is Teddy's wife. He asks her advice about his clock, but she doesn't give any. Then he gives her a glass of water, and she tells him she and Teddy have been traveling in Europe—most recently in Venice. He says his father will be glad to meet her.

Lenny tells her he was too young to serve in the war, but if he had, he probably would have served in Venice. Then he asks to hold her hand. Ruth asks him why. He answers with a long story about being down by the docks and having a woman approach him with a proposal. He turned her down because she was "falling apart with the pox." He hit her and thought about killing her, because he could have gotten away with it. However, in the end he decided to hit her again and kick her. To answer Ruth's question about how he knew the woman was diseased, he simply replies that he "decided she was."

Ruth tells Lenny she and Teddy have been married for six years. Lenny says the family is proud of Teddy and then transitions to a story about a situation in which he was helping an old lady move something heavy. When he became frustrated because it was so heavy, he told the woman to "stuff this iron mangle up your arse," and then he hit her in the stomach.

Lenny offers to move an ashtray out of Ruth's way. She says not to, but he does it anyway. When he offers to relieve her of her glass, she replies she isn't done with it. He says, "You've consumed quite enough," but she disagrees. He then says he will just take the glass, to which she answers, "If you take this glass ... I'll take you." He is confused. She invites him to sit on her lap and take a sip of her water. When he refuses, she stands and moves toward him, telling him to lie on the floor and she will pour the water down his throat. Disconcerted, he asks if she is making "some kind of proposal." She laughs and drinks the water, saying how thirsty she was. She goes upstairs, and he drinks his own water.

Max wakes up and enters, asking what the noise is about. When Lenny says he was talking to himself, Max says he is being rude. Lenny takes the opportunity to ask a personal question: Had he been conceived intentionally, or was it an accident? He says many people his age wonder this about their own conceptions. Max replies, "You'll drown in your own blood" and says Lenny should have asked his mother. Then he spits at his son.


This section has three main interactions: Teddy and Ruth, Lenny and Ruth, and Lenny and Max. Although Teddy and Lenny interact briefly, their conversation seems more a means of getting Teddy out of the way so Ruth and Lenny can have their interaction.

When Teddy and Ruth arrive, Teddy seems happy—exclaiming about how little has changed and reassuring Ruth that meeting his family will be pleasant. Notably, however, his excitement doesn't extend to announcing himself, but it is hard to tell if his reluctance stems from anxiety about the meeting or his characteristic passivity. He is shown to be even more passive later in the play, so it isn't out of character here that he is willing to reenter the family quietly and unnoticed. For her part, Ruth is tired and says so, asking to sit, as if she needs permission. Teddy points out one armchair as his father's, as if to say she can't sit in his father's chair. Ruth's early gravitation toward Max's chair foreshadows the situation at the end of the play, as Ruth does indeed sit in Max's chair as she usurps his position in the family.

As the conversation progresses, Ruth's reactions to Teddy's suggestions change. A few moments later, when he says "Go to bed. I'll show you the room," she replies, "No, I don't want to." Unsure how to handle the signals she is sending, he becomes somewhat overbearing, telling her they need to be quiet when she is being silent and telling her not to be nervous when she seems perfectly calm. Becoming impatient with his fussing, she goes out for a walk, flustering Teddy even more.

This interaction suggests some tension between Ruth and Teddy, perhaps related to his hovering or controlling nature. It allows for an interpretation of the end of the play: Ruth decides to stay with Teddy's family, rejecting an oppressive environment and choosing a more liberated one—or at least one where she has more control. However, his passive reaction to later, rather shocking events seems to contradict a reading that Teddy is overbearing. Another interpretation is that Teddy is so anxious about meeting his family and introducing them to Ruth that he becomes clingy. In this reading, the line "But what am I going to do" suggests his need for her presence, and his question "Are you nervous?" and subsequent reassurances occur because he is projecting his own anxiety onto her. Indeed, Teddy does seem more ill at ease in the way a passive person might be, seeking direction rather than domineering.

The second main interaction is between Ruth and Lenny. At first Lenny is friendly, and nothing in the conversation seems out of the ordinary. But when she questions why he wants to hold her hand—holding her hand being the first step away from the ordinary—he launches into a story in which he beats up a woman. His message is that she should hold his hand because he is a violent man and it is in her best interest to keep him happy. The threat of violence is thinly veiled. Ruth refuses to react in the way he expects, asking a perceptive question about the story instead. He gives a nonsensical yet macho answer: he knew the woman was diseased because he decided she was. He seems disconcerted because she hasn't shown any sign of feeling threatened, and so he dives straight into another story in which he beats up an old woman. Again Ruth is unflustered. Lenny then tries to assert his dominance by micromanaging the placement of items next to her, including her glass of water. Her response is to assert herself forcefully, even threatening him with physical dominance of her own. Her threats—"I'll take you" and "Lie on the floor ... I'll pour it down your throat"—are both aggressive and sexually suggestive. As Ruth laughs, drinks, and then leaves, Lenny fumes and yells after her, but it is clear to them that Ruth is the winner of this power struggle.

Finally, the interaction between Max and Lenny centers on the surprising question of whether his conception was planned or unexpected. Lenny says he wants to know "in the spirit of inquiry" and concedes perhaps he should have asked his mother instead. This is another situation in which there seems to be more meaning between the lines than the literal lines indicate. Max takes offense and becomes upset, spitting at Lenny and saying, "You'll drown in your own blood." Is Lenny questioning his own paternity? After all, he often mocks Max by calling him "Dad" or "Daddy." When Jessie's infidelity is revealed later, the possibility that questions of paternity are part of the tense undercurrent of the family becomes more likely. However, in true Harold Pinter fashion, the paternity question is only suggested, never settled.

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