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Roland, A. (1974). Pinter's Homecoming: Imagoes in Dramatic Action. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(3):415-427.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(3):415-427

Pinter's Homecoming: Imagoes in Dramatic Action

Alan Roland, Ph.D.


Harold Pinter is now acclaimed to be among the most exciting of contemporary playrights and The Homecoming perhaps the most provocative of his plays. Reams have been written about his works, particularly The Homecoming. But the question still remains, what are they all about? “Enthrallingly dramatic while remaining exasperatingly obscure,” a comment by a daily reviewer, sums up the general reactions of drama critics and audiences. On a more sophisticated level, Elizabeth Hardwick5 of The New York Review points out, “It is characteristic of these plays that they are not symbolic or distorted; they are instead prosaic, recognizable, but unexplained.” Even the comments on Pinter's style and dialogue are paradoxical: Martin Esslin2 and Elizabeth Hardwick indicate Pinter's extraordinary gift for naturalistic lower-class dialogue, while Kelly Morris7 and Richard Schechner10 emphasize Pinter's refusal to reveal information: “We expect to discover what it's all about. Pinter intentionally disappoints this expectation and leaves his audience anxiously confused.” Michael Smith of The Village Voice (April 1965) puts it in a nutshell: “The dialogue is both accurate and improbable.” Characterization is couched in equally incongruous statements: Martin Esslin and Richard Schechner stress the characters' lack of identity, background, and motivation, while other critics like Elizabeth Hardwick express how profoundly real they are.

How are these paradoxes to be resolved? Pinter's plays are Janusfaced, pointing toward not only the characters' relationships to each other, but also their inner dynamics, the outside and inside combined through dramatic images of the seemingly commonplace.

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