In Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming" one of the important themes is power. Many of the characters try to exert power. Many of the characters try to exert power over others through various means such as sexuality and intelligence. The use of violence within the household is believed by the men to be the most important tool of power. However, when Ruth, the only woman in the play, enters, she appears to defeat the men's power, but not with violence. Her sexuality and apparent intelligence become part of the way in which she takes control of the house. Power itself is the ability to take control and exert authority over others. Violence is a physical form of this. It usually takes the form of a display of force and this could be an unjust or even unlawful action. There could be a use of violent language or an element of threatened violence. However, the degree of power this holds is determined by the reaction of those threatened, or whether or not anything comes of the threat.
Teddy introduces his wife, Ruth, into his childhood home that is a scene of tense threats and reports of violence - both sexual and physical. As soon as the play begins there is conflict between Lenny and his father, Max. Having been insulted by Lenny, Max threatens him with his stick, saying "Don't you talk to me like that. I'm warning you". However, nothing comes of this threat. The only element of power that can be inferred comes from the way in which Lenny makes no response. Perhaps he has previous experience of Max's anger, or it could be that both parties know that there is no point in pursuing the matter. The power that is expected to come with a threat is non-existent in this household as the threats are well-worn and always empty.
Max demands that Teddy and Ruth leave his house, yet by the end of the play, he is sobbing and yearning for attention from Ruth. The insults and derogatory terms used within the family are not so much an element of power as a way of life. As there is no real mother figure within the household, the men have lapsed into a way of life in which they can show no affection to each other. Instead they insult each other in ways usually reserved for women: "bitch" and "slag". A show of affection or even respect can result in argument, "Stop calling me Dad", Max complains. The men appear to hold power through unity. Although they fight, they work together to devise plans for establishing Ruth as a prostitute. Teddy excludes himself from the proceedings by refusing to contribute to the kitty and is therefore excluded from the unity of power that the other men now hold. It is unclear who the plans will benefit. By clubbing together in this way, the men think that they have found a way to control Ruth how they like. At this point however, they do not expect to be overpowered once again by Ruth. Her sexual dominance and quick wits are the power that ensures her demands of a three roomed flat and a personal maid.
Ruth undermines the strength of the group through her sexuality and alert mind which both serve to overpower the rough plans and ideas of the men. Her manner of questioning their actions and what they tell her undermine their long held confidence in what they do as being right. Yet the power of intelligence would appear to be small. Teddy is a teacher of philosophy and is ultimately defeated by his family and returns to America. He appears to be a fairly passive member of the family. His attempts to persuade Ruth to retire for the night are fruitless and he has no control over his wife's future. It could be inferred that Ruth is only acting in this way in England as she has found a release from the boring life of America. There she had three sons and was the wife of a university lecturer. It could be that this visit sees Ruth released from the dull domination of Teddy. This is not domination in the more physical form that his brothers and father use. This is the assumption that Ruth has all she needs or wants in...
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