The Homecoming


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