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Jessie in the Homecoming
Transcript of Jessie in the Homecoming
Jessie as a necessity
-role of Jessie = crucial to an understanding of the whole play --> already evoked p.6
-an absent figure, but she is everywhere ->walls of the family home --> her absence
has left a huge hole in the family and in the house --> Lenny describes the family
to Teddy as a "unit" --> Jessie's absence doesn't make it a family!
-"It's a big house. I mean it's a fine room, don't you think? Actually there was a wall, across there…with a door. We knocked it down …years ago… to make an open living area. The structure wasn't affected, you see. My mother was dead" --> Pinter's use of irony here = the structure of the house has not been
affected but the structure of the family has been
- not a physical character in the play --> constant reminder of her physical absence
-"the backbone of the family" --> pillar of the family --> need to replace her = Ruth
-it is not Teddy who comes home but the mother, Jessie, symbolically reincarnated as Ruth
Jessie as a tool of manipulation
Jessie represented as “the backbone of the family” on one hand saintly terms
Opposed to “slutbitch” degraded status as a woman
These 2 different visions of Jessie serve the characters who establish them: they verbally construct and reconstruct her along the 'traditional mother'/'whore' dichotomy.
It’s important to distinguish:
-the words the characters say
-the aim of what they say
-the reality of the situation
Jessie as a figure of emancipation
Max: “Listen, I’ll tell you something. Since poor Jessie died, eh, Sam? We haven’t had a woman in the house. Not one. Inside this house. And I’ll tell you why. Because their mother’s image was so dear any other woman would have…tarnished it. But you…Ruth…you’re not only lovely and beautiful, but you’re kin. You’re kith. You belong here” --> Ruth is seen as the replacement of Jessie.
-->Both of them are placed in the roles of wife, mother and
-no mother figure so the men lapse into a way of life in which they show no affection and insult each other as "bitch", "slag" --> feminine adjectives show their need of womanly presence
-p.19-20 "Do you think I am your mother?"--> looking for a female
-p.46 "Do you mind if I hold your hand?" -->lack of motherly affection
-p.131 "you could do a bit of cooking here if you wanted to"
A) A demeaned image
B) An idealised image
[p6] “She wasn’t such a bad woman. Even though it made me sick just to look at her rotten stinking face, she wasn’t such a bad bitch.” >Max here wishes to exert his authority by acting macho and gain recognition as he affirms to be in control.
[p66] “I’ve never had a whore under this roof before. Ever since your mother died. My word of honour." -> Ironic antithesis: whore/honour,
double interpretation: J is the whore or Max cheated on J with whores.
To influence within the family:
[p19] Sam rambles on about how he “used to just drive [Jessie] about” and how she was a “charming woman” --> emphasized by pauses & silences (absurd techniques) in order to increase tension.
[p56] Lenny asks Max about how he was conceived in order to embarrass him > jumps from insignificant topic (of to whom he had spoken) to delicate subject (of his conception) =absurd technique.
[p102] Sam tells Teddy “you were always you mother’s favourite.”
To influence Ruth:
[p73] “I made Jessie put her feet up on a pouffe.” > symbolism of a queen, highlighted by “they knelt down at our feet, Jessie’s and mine”
Absurd technique > Real vs Unreal: Max’s intention is not to idealise Jessie but to idealise Jessie’s position in the family so that Ruth finds it appealing.
[p125] “Since poor Jessie died […] we haven’t had a woman in the house. […] Because their mother’s image was so dear any other woman would have … tarnished it. But you… Ruth… You’re not only lovely and beautiful, but you’re kin.” > This construction of J is used to manipulate & persuade Ruth to take part of the family and fill in the housewife role that is set for her by the men. The men want Ruth to adopt Jessie’s previous position > circular plot.
C) A disposable figure
[p72] “She taught them all the morality they know.” > ironic as they are immoral.
[p72] “I left a woman at home with a will of iron, a heart of gold and a mind.”
[p75] “Don’t talk to me about the pain of childbirth- I suffered the pain, I’ve still got the pangs.” > Max seeks recognition through ridiculous argument.
Jessie is not present in the play > unpowerful as the men can distort her image to their liking. women in the play: appear submitted when they are shown through the men’s viewpoints, but when seen lucidly they control the situation.
E.g.: Jessie recurrently talked about, shows her omnipresence in the men’s lives and her significance.
Ruth: seen at the end of the play when she talks business and negotiations.
"Does a woman need to take the role of a man to gain power?"
EDUCATION/ FAMILY ROLE
Jessie represents the traditional role of the mother figure
After Jessie's death, the family breaks down
Jessie's death leads to the men break down
Jessie is represented emotionless when the men are governed by their emotions
Women lead men with their emotions and desires = power
Changing role between Jessie and Max with the relationship between Jessie and MacGregor
= represents the liberalisation of women
=women are no longer limited and controlled by men
Jessie represents both the traditional and the modern figure of women.
She gains an important male trait, which is power.
It is not a changing role but the liberalisation of women = a woman doesn't need to take the role of a man to gain power
a man's world
"Does a woman need to take the role of a man to gain power?"
In "The Homecoming", Jessie is a key character, not only because she is representative of half the women in the play, but also because she is not physically present pushing the spectator to view her representation with an analytical eye.
On on hand, Jessie is a victim of
inequality in the all-male household as the men verbally reconstruct her image to their benefit.
On the other hand, she is the embodiment of the emancipated feminine figure alongside Ruth, her
being shown through her omnipresence and significance as a mother figure as well as a symbol of femininity.
The fact or process of being set free from legal, social or political restrictions.
Though she never appears in the play, Jessie is mentioned frequently and her presence is felt throughout different aspects:
I/ Jessie as a necessity
II/ Jessie as a tool of manipulation
III/ Jessie as a figure of emancipation
Woman character in this play is "the most misunderstood of all Harold Pinter's characters"
(Prentice, 2000, 127)