The Homecoming Essay, Research Paper
Explore the characterisation of Teddy and his significance in the play as a whole, starting from a close examination of his words and behaviour on p.86 to p.89 (?I think we?ll go back?" to "You just rest. I?ll go pack").
We see straight away that Teddy, who ostensibly should be relaxed in his home, is tense. He talks incessantly, posing questions and seeking reassurance, while Ruth speaks and acts with confidence. When Teddy announces: "I think we?ll go back" and asks Ruth if she agrees that they should return home, she simply answers with a contrasting self-assurance: "Why?"(III.86). Teddy?s insecurity is apparent in every line, as his rhythms and tone of speech contradict the apparent meaning of his words. For example, responding snappily to Ruth?s accusation that he does not like his family he says, "Of course I like them. What are you talking about?" but he is unable to continue the speech by producing some evidence to support this statement and there is a telling silence (III, 87). This episode reinforces the fact that the power in this relationship seems to belong to Ruth. For instance, Teddy rambles: "Look. I?ll go and pack. You rest for a while. Will you? They won?t be back for at least an hour. You can sleep. Rest. Please"(III, 89), to which Ruth just looks at him in commanding silence. In retrospect we may look at Teddy?s pleading for her to rest, as more of an attempt to claim possession than to offer solace, a comparison can be drawn to earlier in Act III when Teddy says to Ruth: "I?m with you". This suspicion is reinforced when we realise that this is one of three times that Teddy has begged Ruth to "Rest" in just four pages of text, even though as he says himself "It?s morning. It?s about eleven o?clock"(III, 88). Teddy seems desperate to stop his wife being revitalised by this "unclean" house, even though he is, or at least his makes himself, powerless to stop this happening.
Left alone with his wife during this brief spell, we see Teddy virtually begging Ruth to return to America with him. However, failing to move Ruth with the mention of her sons, his urgings are laughably inadequate: "The fall semester will be starting soon"(III, 89). Ruth queries whether Teddy finds his home dirty, and at first he denies that hypothesis, but then he picks up the theme: "Here, there?s nowhere to bathe, except the swimming pool down the road. You know what it?s like? It?s like a urinal. A filthy urinal!"(III, 89). Teddy?s disparagement of the London environment is a clue to the breakdown of his relationship with Ruth, who thrives in the dirt and aggression of the North London home. America for Teddy is a land of swimming pools, early morning sunlight, and quiet study. The perfect home for a cerebral man who want to disassociate himself from his animalistic family who, as Ruth rightly asserts, he does not like as much as he thought he did (III,89).
Teddy is a complete outsider to his family; this is affirmed when Lenny reassures him that he belongs to the family unit. Any reassurance from Lenny, the most predatory member of the family, is bound to be untrue! All Teddy has is Ruth, and in spite of the intellectual wall he has built around himself, he is isolated and in need of the emotional buttressing Ruth has provided. Thus, his request, "You just rest. I?ll go pack"(III, 90), can be seen as him pleading that she remain with him, both at this particular moment and metaphorically in the marriage.
Teddy operates with great emotional detachment, retreating behind an intellectual barrier. This is shown when he uses a cold circular kind of logic with Ruth saying: "Look, I just brought you back to meet the family, didn?t I? You?ve met them, we can go". Teddy?s excuse is equally lame when he says the reason he never told the family he was married was because: "You were busy at the time. I didn?t want to bother you"(III, 78). In retrospect, one suspects that Teddy was fearful to tell the family about Ruth, and now wants to leave so quickly because he fears they will be too pleased with her. It is in this light that we can see many of Teddy?s comments as pleas that Ruth is allowed to remain with him. However, the family is relentless. When Max inquires whether the children miss their mother, Teddy insists they do, until Lenny coolly reminds Teddy: "Your cigars gone out"(III, 82). The line implies Teddy?s loss of power. This can be seen soon after when Lenny challenges Teddy?s area of expertise: "Do you detect a certain logical incoherence in the central affirmations of Christian theism?" (III, 83). Teddy?s whole life has thus being challenged, and so to his right to Ruth. Yet, Teddy sidesteps the issue: "That question doesn?t fall within my province"(III, 83). We see that Teddy surrenders, unwilling to hold his intellectual ground, and his retreat is an acknowledgement that he will not fight in any other arena – it is no coincidence that before Lenny "appears" on page 90, Teddy is seen fleeing "out and up the stairs". Teddy symbolically relinquishes his place in the family when he stands up, just before Ruth reveals (in hindsight with an air of inevitability "I was born quite near here" (III, 85)) and we realise the play is not only Teddy?s "homecoming" but also hers.
At other crucial moment Teddy also relinquishes responsibility for his wife, standing in silence when his brothers embrace her on the sofa. This silence amounts to complicity. Teddy justifies this shocking passivity, by which he allows himself to become disengaged from his own wife, through talking about his critical works, offering the defence: "There?s no point in my sending you my critical works. You?d be lost. It?s nothing to do with the question of intelligence. It?s a way of being able to look at the world. It?s a question of how far you can operate on things and not in things"(100). This peculiar analysis is Teddy?s justification. He refuses to participate in the animalistic family ways, which he seems to have dreaded returning to. This involves Teddy giving up his wife without a fight and not standing up for his principles. He describes it as: "Intellectual equilibrium. You?re just objects you just? move about. I can observe it. I can see what you do. It?s the same as I do. But lost in it. You won?t get me being lost in it"(III, 100). Yet, Teddy quite clearly is lost, he has become separated from his family through his education and "rationality".
Teddy?s education at graduate level seems to have removed from him normal human emotion and instinctive feeling and actions. He uses philosophy to distance himself from life, using this as a reason to allow him to surrender to the peculiar horrors that are going on around him. Michael Craig who played Teddy perceptively commented: "He?s an awful man, Teddy. He rationalised his aggressions, but underneath he?s an Eichmann" (quoted in Hewes, "Probing Pinter?s Play". Interview with Harold Pinter). There is good reason for him to say this about Teddy, as a character, not just as the representative of a peculiar thought process. As the family?s behaviour becomes more outrageous Teddy becomes more vindictive. When Joey returns after a session with Ruth, without having gone "the whole hog"(III, 108), Teddy replies: "Perhaps he hasn?t got the right touch"(III, 108) and later coolly explains to Max: "He had her up their for two hours and he didn?t go the whole hog"(III, 112). Teddy pretends this self-imposed distance to what is going on around him gives him a superiority, that he is refusing to sink to the family?s level. However, by doing this he is refusing to acknowledge the outrage that is taking place, instead he smiles and says: "The best thing for her is to come home with me, Dad. Really. We?re married, you know"(III, 115). Teddy even suddenly suggests the scheme of Ruth staying in London, perhaps trying to outdo the rest of the family for callousness and viciousness. We have seen that Teddy argues the case that his philosophical training permits, even encourages, such detachment. Even as he prepares to leave he refuses to acknowledge what has happened in any normal human way. However, Teddy is not heroically rebelling against his family, he is in fact encouraging their animalism by refusing to stand up to them; even though he does not feel he belongs to them, he leaves his wife to them in the most cold and cowardly manner.
Nevertheless, Teddy is unlike his two brothers and his father. Perhaps he and his uncle, Sam, who is equally unlike his brother Max, were born outside the family unit and that is why they feel such kinship and are so different. However, this conclusion only puts Teddy in a worse light, for while Sam cannot stand up to the family because he lacks the physical strength, Teddy does not oppose the family because he lacks the moral courage. Although he does not like the family?s way of life he ultimately proves himself to be wholly conversant and submissive to it. One is left unable to disagree with the statement Pinter himself made to John Lhar ?that if ever there was a villain in the play, Teddy was it? and the identical words of Sir Peter Hall and Paul Rogers that Teddy is ?the biggest bastard of the lot?.