Women from history and literature have been regarded as less inferior gender than men. Women’s roles and identity was often linked to home, family and childbearing. Their roles created by society strictly confined to motherhood and domesticity. The general notion that women is intellectually less capable than restricted them to get involve in politics and other societal movements. Politics, employment, leadership and even education were initially for men’s domain. Women in the past due to limited literacy accepted these roles as part of the “natural order of things”. Their lives and the realities of their existence totally conformed to the given standard of the society.
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But these assumed roles for women started to reexamine as time passes by that can be reflected from societal movements. Literature even from the past explored the topics of women’s role as part of the societal concerns.
Literature has been an effective tool for social awakening. Perhaps Harold Pinter who wrote “The Homecoming” is one of the most straightforward writers that boldly illustrate women’s role form the past through making a point of comparison between his fictional characters: Jessie and Ruth.
The men’s attitude towards women is one of the most dominant themes of this play. The family’s sense of tyranny and patriarchal dominance greatly influence their way of perceiving women. Women in return becomes outcast. Male’s attitude towards women in this story illustrates and reassures male superiority and status. There are two female characters in the story namely: Jessie and Ruth. Their characters depict how the writer made a representation with the gender roles. The traditional portrayal of Jessie’s character reflects constraints of traditional notion of being at home. Ruth’s character on the other hand reflects women in urban life.
Though Jessie is already dead, Teddy’s family still reminisce her memories that is completely confine to domesticity and motherhood. Their conversation towards Jessie reflects their dependency especially in the case of his husband.
“I've never had a whore under this roof before. Ever since your mother (Jessie) died (Pinter 1994)”
This statement from Jessie’s husband unconsciously perceives his wife as sexual-social status symbol rather than a life partner. Jessie’s husband illustrates a primitive and traditional man that perceives women as captives that must satisfy the monstrous or sexual equilibrium of a husband. There is a degree of family’s possessiveness and exploitation of how they treat Jessie. Jessie, the dead wife and mother, is a figure whose absence became the central of the play. Jessie’s absence made the male realized how important it is to have a female inside the house. Max, Jessie’s husband spoke of Jessie both with gentleness yet obvious disapproval.
“Mind you, 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” (Pinter 1994).
The way he approach his wife that is very traditional reflects his ignorance that women also have their own sense of individuality. His sense of morality is very low that perhaps reflects his level of education.
However the character of Ruth was being approach by the writer differently. She’s beautiful, civilized, and seems sexually charged even in the way she moves (O’Brien, 2001). Ruth character in this story is very powerful since her arrival in the male dominated society of Teddy’s home created alarming reactions. There was a scene during the family’s lunch when they unwittingly insulted Ruth like nobody’s business and the brothers come in smoking cigarettes and then Ruth comes in serving them coffee while the boys’ are seating. Men treated Ruth naturally without second thoughts who immediately assume that Ruth like Jessie is created primarily to attend male’s needs.
The lunch scene illustrates their constructed reality regarding women in general. However Ruth at the end of the story with her natural sense of identity and pride which she accumulated from education and urban community made her restore her sense of individuality as a woman. She made them realize that they can not generalize women especially with the continuous liberation of thoughts and ideas. Her intelligence and sexuality made her takes control of the house by which the male species are not used to. Teddy, Ruth’s husband made no attempt to stop what she’s doing which gave Ruth the opportunity to use her power: intellect and alert mind. The arrival of Ruth provided them a woman that has been missing in the family after Jessie’s death. Men focus around her. However Jessie’s exertion of sexual power overpowers the male that deprived them of a central mother and sexual figure.
However the male dominated society that is not educated gave Ruth the chance to release from the dull domination of Teddy back from America. Her visit in England makes her dominate her life the way she wanted to through resistance of Teddy’s idea. Basically, England gave her freedom. But Jessie who can not resist or oppose to the male society when she’s alive makes her a prison, prison on the constructed roles given to her.
In this story sexual power and violence for men gives them power and dominance. Jessie who affirms the given roles to her made her inferior. Jessie became a central figure for motherhood, home and domesticity. Jessie satisfies the men’s assumed roles for women especially for social and emotional security. But Ruth on the other hand, dominated the male society through stressing her strengths which is mostly her sexuality.
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