Course Hero. "Homecoming Study Guide." Course Hero. 5 Apr. 2019. Web. 24 June 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Homecoming/>.
Course Hero. (2019, April 5). Homecoming Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Homecoming/
(Course Hero, 2019)
Course Hero. "Homecoming Study Guide." April 5, 2019. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Homecoming/.
Course Hero, "Homecoming Study Guide," April 5, 2019, accessed June 24, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Homecoming/.
As Joey boasts about his boxing ability, Max undermines him with a clever insult. This line exemplifies the constant one-upping that goes on in the family and highlights Joey's role as the least intelligent man in the family. The suggestion is that Max insults him but Joey doesn't perceive the insult as such.
An armchair—specified in the stage direction as part of the set—is pointed out to Ruth as belonging to Max, the family patriarch. Teddy implies no one but Max sits there. The significance is made clear in the final scene, when Ruth sits in Max's chair (or her own new chair) as if it were a throne and receives the supplication, or prayers, of Max and Joey. Seating herself in the patriarch's chair shows her new and powerful position in the family and Max's loss of status.
When they first arrive at Teddy's family home in North London, Teddy acts in a slightly overbearing manner, telling Ruth to go up to bed, an idea she resists even though she has already said she is tired. It appears she does not like being told what to do, and throughout the scene she refuses to do what Teddy wants. She asks for the key so she can go outside for a walk by herself and reverses the situation by telling him to go up to bed. He gives her the key and does eventually go to bed without her.
While Teddy is upstairs in bed, Ruth and Lenny meet for the first time. He attempts to dominate her, telling her a story of how he was violent and controlling toward another woman as if to make her afraid and compliant before starting to tell her what to do—including giving up her glass of water although she insists she hasn't finished. Here, she seems to threaten him with either a fight or sex—or a hint of both—if he decides to try to take the glass. Later in the conversation she escalates the power play, saying, "Lie on the floor. Go on. I'll pour it down your throat."
That night ... you know ... that night you got me ... that night with Mum ... what was it like?
Lenny asks Max about the night he was conceived and whether his conception was intentional, claiming the question is something many people his age wonder about. However, his question here hints at the paternity of Max's sons, since Max's wife Jessie was unfaithful—a "secret" Max's brother Sam knows and others may suspect.
We took you into the butcher's shop, you couldn't even sweep dust off the floor.
Max complains about Sam in several ways, all focusing on Sam's lack of the masculine qualities of which Max is so proud—being a father, husband, and bloodthirsty butcher (which may be more pathetic and repulsive than masculine). Max disdains Sam's more feminine role in the family, as Sam takes on some of the traditionally female tasks in the household, such as making breakfast and cleaning the kitchen.
When Ruth first appears the morning after she and Teddy arrive, Max and the rest of the family assume she is a prostitute. Max demands to know who gave permission for Teddy to bring a prostitute into the house before he even asks who she is or why she is there. His assumption sheds some light on the expectations of the men in the household.
Joey feels conflicted by Max's harsh welcome of Teddy and Ruth and the language his father uses toward her. Joey's statement here is an excuse for the old man's behavior. Taking great offense at Joey's words, Max violently punches Joey in the stomach and then begins a family brawl. This action highlights not only Max's aging but also his sense of increasing desperation and need to prove himself as a result—that as an old man, he is still capable of violence.
After Max becomes used to the idea of Ruth and seems to have given up his earlier disdain for her as a "tart," he becomes interested in her ability to embody other feminine roles, such as motherhood. He asks her directly if she is a mother and learns she is and, like him, has three children. The idea of her promiscuity is not far from his mind, however, as he very soon asks Teddy if all three children are his. To Max, being a slut and a mother are two sides of the same coin.
The final line of Act 1 suggests that Max, preoccupied with being the family patriarch, is using all available tools to maintain his position. These include playing on the emotions of his children and demanding they show their affection in tangible ways. This interaction recalls the beginning of Shakespeare's King Lear, in which the failing king demands shows of love from his daughters and judges their worthiness on how well they overtly demonstrate their love for him.
Max's statement about Jessie's instruction of her sons in matters of morality carries considerable situational irony because Jessie's sons' morality is highly questionable. Lenny, a pimp, brags of his violence against women, and Joey has unprotected sex with women against their wishes. Teddy stands by obligingly as his wife leaves him and their children to become his father's and brothers' sex object and mother/wife figure. Max never admits to knowing his wife slept with his friend MacGregor, but here it seems as if he does suspect her infidelity.
While Max poses this question to Ruth, who looks at Max silently, Teddy answers him with "of course they are." A double meaning is suggested: Are Ruth's children missing her, their mother? Of course, according to Teddy. But in some ways Max seems to be speaking in broader terms. It is important to remember that Lenny, Teddy, and Joey also have lost their mother, a loss that left them in need of a motherly influence. This line, then, also foreshadows the role Ruth will assume in the household as a replacement for Jessie, absurd as such a replacement can be.
Look at me. I ... move my leg. That's all it is ... it captures your attention.
This striking scene, in which Ruth calls attention to the movement of her own leg, knowing it will arouse sexual feelings in the onlooking men, is in response to Lenny's introduction of questions of what is real or knowable. She demonstrates that something simple, like the movement of a body part, can contain meaning beyond a simple motion. It can capture attention and suggest sex, while remaining simply a movement. She adds the possibility that meaning comes from interpretation and thus is subject to misinterpretation, noting "perhaps you misinterpret" the movement. This interaction not only shows Ruth's sexual power over the men but also reflects on the theme of knowledge and meaning developed in shadows throughout the play.
When Lenny asks if she wants her drink on the rocks, Ruth turns the question into a slight on his masculinity, asserting her power over this man who has boasted on more than one occasion of his dominance of and aggression toward women. The clear double meaning of rocks allows this remark to be an insult while still couched in the language of cocktails.
Max, seeing in the end that Ruth is assuming power in the family and in many ways usurping his role—sitting is his own armchair—begins to despair of maintaining the power over her he craves. He and his sons have crafted an elaborate plan for Ruth to become a prostitute and also meet their various needs, from cooking and cleaning to sex, yet as she assumes a queenly attitude in his chair, he realizes he has lost, not gained, power.