Literature Study GuidesHomecomingAct 2 Section 2 Summary

Homecoming | Study Guide

Cynthia Voigt

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Homecoming | Act 2, Section 2 | Summary

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Summary

That evening Teddy and Sam discuss MacGregor. Teddy still wears his coat and has his packed suitcases nearby. Teddy says he liked MacGregor, in response to Sam's question. Sam tells Teddy he is the favorite of his three nephews and asks him to stay a few more weeks. Lenny enters, looking for his cheese-roll. When Lenny demands to know who took it, Teddy admits having done it. After Sam leaves, Lenny demands Teddy apologize for taking the cheese-roll. Teddy won't, because he knew it was Lenny's and ate it deliberately. Lenny sees this as a major offense. Then he says the family was proud of Teddy's success and glad to welcome him back. He tells Teddy he is still an integral part of the family, but when he comes home, he should behave more graciously.

When Joey comes downstairs, Lenny asks him, "How'd you get on?" to which Joey replies, "not bad." Lenny demands to know if Joey went "all the way" with Ruth upstairs, and when Joey says he wasn't able to, Lenny derides Ruth for being a tease. Teddy suggests maybe Joey doesn't have "the right touch," but Lenny thinks this is ridiculous because Joey has lots of women. Lenny and Joey tell a story about picking up a couple of girls and having sex with them. Lenny said Joey's date didn't want to have unprotected sex, but Joey completely disregarded this request.

Max enters, asking where "the whore" is. Lenny relates how she was upstairs with Joey for two hours and didn't have sex with him, again calling her a tease. Joey becomes upset, suggesting Teddy doesn't have any more luck with Ruth than he had. Max suggests Joey is upset because he's sexually frustrated. Then he wonders aloud whether it would be good to have a woman in the house, and say maybe they should keep Ruth around. Teddy reminds him Ruth needs to get home to her children. Max again suggests they keep her, and this time Sam objects, saying she has three children. Max counters this by saying she can have more if she stays. Teddy again only says she needs to go home because she's his wife.

Max continues to work out the details of the arrangement he envisions, explaining they'd pay her, of course. Lenny wants to know where the money to pay her would come from, and Joey offers to contribute. The three of them agree they will all contribute to support Ruth and keep her in fashionable clothing.

Lenny then has what he considers a better idea. She can come with him to Greek Street and earn her own money as a prostitute. Max agrees this would be acceptable, as long as she works only a few hours a day because she'll have obligations at home as well. Joey doesn't like the plan because he doesn't want to share Ruth with Lenny's clientele. Max asks Teddy if he thinks Ruth is "up to the mark," since she was such a tease for two hours. Teddy shares his opinion that the two hours was "love play," not teasing.

As Ruth comes downstairs amid the discussion of her future roles, Teddy tells her the family would like her to stay a while, if she wants. He would go home to the children. Since Jessie died, they haven't had a woman in the house, Max says, but Ruth can stay because she is already family. Teddy tells her the family expects her to make money if she wants to stay, because Max isn't well-off. Lenny explains they will get her a flat, where she can go a few hours a day to make a little money and then come back to the house. She agrees but demands a three-bedroom flat, a wardrobe, and a personal maid, among other things, including a contract.

Suddenly, Sam blurts out, "MacGregor had Jessie in the back of my cab as I drove them along" and then collapses on the floor. Max says Sam has a diseased imagination.

Teddy prepares to leave. Max says it was wonderful to see him and gives him a photo to show his grandsons. After Teddy leaves, Ruth sits in Max's chair—now hers—as the men stand around her. Sam is still lying on the floor. Joey then kneels next to her chair and places his head in her lap. She places her hand on his head, angering Max, who tells her she can't have just Joey—she has to take them all. As he becomes more agitated, moaning and weeping, he falls to his knees and crawls toward her. He kneels on the other side, opposite Joey, insists he's "not an old man," and demands she kiss him. Ruth strokes Joey's hair. Lenny stands watching them as they play ends.

Analysis

The conclusion comes as something of an even greater surprise than many of the other absurd elements in the play. Even after the strange situation of the first section of this act, in which Ruth kisses and embraces Lenny and Joey while Teddy watches, apparently unmoved, this section escalates the absurdity. Max, Lenny, and Joey plan to keep Ruth with them to attend to all their needs. They want her to assume the archetypal feminine roles in the family—mother, wife, whore. To make the plan even more outrageously ridiculous, they think she could work a few hours a day as a prostitute to bring a little extra money in and earn her keep as well. It is a ludicrous proposition. Yet, they talk about it as if it were a real possibility. Even Teddy chimes in helpfully, offering to go home and take care of the children if she wants to stay in London.

Ruth also treats the idea as reasonable. Although they don't put it to her in explicit terms, it is hard to imagine she doesn't understand what they want from her. Without fuss, she calmly negotiates the terms of such an arrangement, making demands about clothing and lodging and demanding a written contract. The situation has become stranger, but Ruth's strategy for outmaneuvering the men is remarkably similar throughout the play. She remains emotionally detached while they fall prey to their own emotions and impulses. They need and want her, and she characterizes the plan as an "attractive" arrangement dreamed up by "nice" and "sweet" people.

By her demands on the men, audiences can be quite sure Ruth has gained control over the family by the end of the play, despite their wanting to make her a prostitute. She spends two hours with Joey in "love play," but he seems not to have managed to have sex with her. She ends the play in a physical position of power—enthroned—with two men in the kneeling posture of supplicants. She is setting the terms of the relationships to which they must adapt.

Teddy's reaction to the plan is, once again, extremely odd, even given his passivity toward her exaggeratedly affectionate relations with his brothers. He offers to go home and take care of the children while she stays behind as a kind of sex slave/master for his family. This is an extrapolation of his observer/outsider status taken to its most absurd place. It also highlights the similarity he has to his father. Max took care of his three sons after their mother died, and now Teddy will take care of his three sons in the absence of their mother. Max is the patriarch of an all-male household, and Teddy's fate is to be the same. Will Teddy's sons end up as broken as Max's? And if so, who will come in to be the female presence in that household? The questions are both absurd and yet reasonable given the family structures Harold Pinter has created.

The secret Sam has been hinting at throughout the play comes out in this final section, but it is strangely anticlimactic. In the midst of all the planning and negotiating, Sam's role in the family is shifting and becoming less relevant. He objects to the plan on the grounds that "she's got three children" and as a result does not become part of the new family structure, such as it will be. He's been using mentions of MacGregor and how nice it was to drive Jessie around, and of people having sex in the backs of cars, as his one point of leverage over Max. With the changes in the family—Ruth's assumption of power—Sam takes this last chance to reveal his knowledge of Jessie's affair. He blurts it out but gets virtually no reaction, and he collapses. He and his secret have become irrelevant when far greater upheavals are foreseeable.

The final tableau shows the new power structure of the family—Ruth sits enthroned while the men gather around her, some kneeling. However, there is definitely some doubt as to whether Ruth will fulfill the roles of mother, wife, and prostitute as the men want. Max has doubts, saying he doesn't think "she's got it clear" and can "smell" that something isn't right. In addition, when he demands a kiss, she does not comply. Ruth's agreement to the plan also is in question. There's no outright agreement in her lines: She thinks the idea "sounds" attractive. The arrangement "might" prove workable. She has indicated she'd need something of a formal contract to go along with the plan, and there's every reason to think such a contract will never come about. That the play ends in silence from the dominant figure says more than any dialogue, if it existed, could say.

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