A Doll's House and the Homecoming are plays that have a lot of similarities. Whereas the Norwegian Et Dukkehjem (A Doll's House) is the 1879 work of Henrik Ibsen which he wrote a year after the Pillars of Society, the Homecoming on the other hand was written by Harold Pinter, the Nobel laureate in 1964, heading on to win the Tony Award for Best Play in 1967. The interesting twist that brings about a striking quality of similarity between the play is seen in the fact that apart from the stylistic devices extant in both plays, the themes that are floated therein are identical and in total agreement. The veracity of this is seen in the analysis of the play that takes place forthwith.
1. Clarifying the Theme (Idea of the Topic) In the Opening Paragraph; And Developing an Analytical Discussion
At the heart of the issues that both Pinter and Ibsen in their works, the Homecoming and A Doll's House respectively seek to raise questions about the moral values and the degree of morality always attributed to the family. Both plays and their playwrights find a point of convergence in postulating through insinuation and inference, that the idealization of the family as the institution with the highest moral value.
That the place of morals is challenged in both plays is seen explicitly. In the Homecoming, Pinter presents a family that is built upon debauchery, incest, pimping, infidelity and disrespect to family values such as the sanctity of marriage; as one that can still hold. In Pinter's the Homecoming, Teddy's wife has extramarital relations with her husband's siblings, notably Lenny and Joey. The play does not fail to mention the lack of respect that ought to exist between a father and a daughter-in-law: Max, Teddy's father does not at all have qualms calling Ruth, his daughter-in-law "a dirty tart" (57). At the same time, Max is the same person who conjures the idea of pimping Ruth in lieu of having Ruth return with her husband to the US and to their children. The culmination of Ruth's bizarre sexual indulgence is the tearing apart of Teddy's nascent family which he goes to unite with in the US, and the unification of Teddy's family back in London. To this effect, play the Homecoming insinuates that families are not only really founded on morals and ethical values as many conventionally have thought, as one of the dominant themes of both plays.
On the other hand, that in the play, A Doll's House, the place of morality and ethics is discounted as the basis of the family is seen in the dynamics of the interconnection of the interpersonal relationships that exist among the personas. Christine, Nora's friend had been having sexual relations with Krogstad before she married another man because he was richer, thus serving as the most viable tool out of Christine's financial distress. Torvald on the other hand loves his wife for selfish and wrong reasons, though he had for long masked this secret behind his staged tender treatment towards his wife, Nora. Similarly, at one end, Krogstad a disgraced lawyer, is able to hold hostage, Nora, Torvald's wife, given Krogstad is privy to the secret of Nora having participated in forgery in order to secure herself a loan, while at the other end, Mr. Torvald wants to sack Krogstad for having participated in forgery. There is also a Dr. Rank who is at the terminal stage of "TB of the spine", a medical condition properly known as congenital syphilis but still tries to get Nora into an extramarital relationship with him. This is despite the fact that he is a close friend and neighbor to Mr. Torvald and Nora, and therefore being aware that Nora is married.
A closer look at the interpersonal relationships within the play shows Mr. Torvald and Nora's family being one that is seriously underpinned by a dense network of blackmail- not morality, ethics and mutual trust. Mr. Torvald appears to have loved Nora for selfish reasons and personal aggrandizement, at the end of the play. Nora is easily made to feel trapped and indebted to Krogstad by the virtue of being privy to her forgery in order to secure a bank loan. The social network that surrounds and somewhat affects Mr. Torvald's family is one that is built upon this blackmail. This is seen in the case where Caroline offers to intercede for Nora on the account that she had been a lover to Krogstad in times past.
In both plays, there is also the erasing or undercutting of social values. In the Homecoming, Teddy is made to appear as the fool, looser and the victim to his brothers, yet he is an academic philosopher by profession, a virtue he claimed had enabled him to sustain his intellectual equilibrium and sense of direction (77-8). Besides matters academic and intellectual, it is clear that Teddy is a responsible family man, having a wife (prior to the journey back to Northern England, his home) and three children. Nevertheless, instead, the playwright Pinter portrays Teddy as a looser who forfeits his wife to his siblings and father who have adulterous flings with her and pimp her for filthy lucre.
Another critical instance in which social value is painted as being unimportant by the playwright is in the presentation of the picture of Max's future and past family. Max indulges in the ignominious by first seeing his daughter-n-law as a whore; hatching in his mind, the possibility of pimping Ruth and executing the same idea, successfully; and not caring the least that he is wrecking his son's marriage. Thus, Ruth is presented as having become a full fledged member of Max's family, having taken the previous role of Max's late wife. This becomes the epitome of the degradation and scorning of social values as this development amounts to incest. The flipside of this above development that Teddy's family (in the US) looses a mother and a wife, that it is deserving and upward, that notwithstanding. In this wavelength therefore, the playwright, Pinter makes it as it were, the veneration of immorality at the expense of morality and societal values. This is clearly the case since, beside the plot; the denouement does not carry any iota of any negative consequences being orchestrated against Max, Lenny and Joey as a form of bringing into effect, poetic justice. On the contrary, Max, Lenny and Joey win the golden trophy which is the womanless, motherless and wifeless woman of Ruth.
As far as the undermining of social values goes in the play A Doll's House, Mr. Torvald a man who has worked hard into being promoted the position of a manager with a local bank is presented as a hypocrite who loved his wife for parochial reasons by the playwright. That Mr. Torvald had the predisposition to react the way he did at the instance of happening upon the truth of Nora's forgery vis-à-vis, Krogstad's letter is a matter that is thrown out the window, thereby presenting him as an insensitive and irrational fellow.
Among the themes that both plays seem to perpetuate is the questioning and calls to (philosophical) debate on what are actually family values and what serves as the most basic essence of love among family members. In the play, A Doll's House, Nora has a secret loan yet she claims to love her husband. As a matter of fact, she walks away from her marriage by handing away her ring and keys to her husband, on the account that her husband, Mr. Torvald through his reaction, clearly showed that he loved Nora out of selfish ambitions. Thus, the playwright presents in the person of Nora and Torvald, a marriage that instead of being built on the solid rock of trust, is deeply and to the core, characterized by mutual mistrust. The keeping of secrets from spouses is the actual representation of the mistrust herein.
On the same value of family value and trust, prospects are not any brighter, when the play the Homecoming is assayed. Lenny and Joey, are the very first people to adulterously compromise their brother Teddy's marriage, instead of being the first people to congratulate their brother and to admonish the wife towards being a companion and helpmate to their brother. Max, their father perfects the art of breaking the son's marriage willingly and knowingly by suggesting that she becomes a prostitute. This totally means that there is no love at all in Max's heart for his son Teddy. At the same time, Ruth also is starkly seen to lack family values such as mutual love and respect for the spouse. She indulges in sex with Teddy's siblings readily and chooses to remain with the family in London so that she can remain a harlot there, instead of being with her family in the US. That Ruth is totally derelict of these family values is well seen in the instance where Ruth shows more interest in listening to Lenny's advances of her ability to own a flat through whoredom, than to Teddy's somewhat flat overtures for them to go back home to their family in America (92). Immediately she hears about the flat, amidst being addressed by Teddy, she asks Lenny "A Flat?" thereby rubbishing Teddy's appeal (92).
In, A Doll's House, the use of realism is more profound as life's circumstances are seen to compel actors to follow the due course of nature and natural laws, instead of ideals. This is seen in the case where Nora forges her father's signature to get a loan (having been constrained by life's unrelenting circumstances); Caroline leaves Krogstad for a richer man in marriage; and where Krogstad chooses to blackmail Nora to save his skin, among other instances. In the Homecoming, realism is not clearly seen for: neither was there compelling circumstances for Max, Joey and Lenny to sexually exploit Ruth; nor is such sexual debauchery found extant among a civilized people.
The Use of Stylistic Devices to Underscore the Themes in Both Plays
Roland (75) explains that it is interesting that both playwrights Pinter and Ibsen propound their themes through contrast. On one hand, in the play the Homecoming, two diametrically opposed families (on matters of principles and values) are presented: there is Teddy's family in the US which he is trying to raise and the one in London, from which he was raised. The one in the US is to be modeled after family ideals such as hard work and decency which Teddy as its head lays claim of hard work, reason and decency (77-78) while the family in London is led by Max a man who pimps his daughter in law and has sex with her at the play's denouement. That Ruth prefers the latter family to her three children and husband is the starkest repudiation of family values and the place of morals in the society.
On the other hand, in the play A Doll's House, the author uses contrast, but to place emphasis on the outward and the inward aspect of morality. From the play, it becomes apparent at the denouement that Mr. Torvald was interested in keeping the outward type of morality. He treats Nora very well and lovingly, but out of selfish ambitions: he seems to have cared more about the reputation of the family than in the real love that the family was in need of. In Act III, Torvald tells Nora that because of her crime, she is not worthy to participate in the upbringing of their children. This berating he levels at Nora, he does while not bringing it into consideration that Nora did this for his sake. At the same time, while on the outward Nora appears to be the villain, a careful look at the denouement reveals a woman who out of love decided to forge her father's signature to save her husband. This is the epitome of morality: taking painstaking measures to ensure that our bedfellows are safe.
Both authors at the same time present the philosophical mooting of social and family values through the use of peripeteia (the reversal of the turning point or circumstances in drama or any other literature). Peripeteia is also referred to as simply as peripety. In the play, A Doll's House, a strong sense of peripeteia is seen in the case in which after leaving Krogstad for a richer man for marriage, Caroline finds herself in need of him, in the bid to succor Nora. Krogstad who appears to Mr. Torvald as the villain for forgery and not showing any room for improvement gains control over Mr. Torvald, courtesy of Nora's forgery. At the same time, Mr. Torvald a seemingly hardworking fellow who has an upper hand in many matters suffers a broken marriage as seemingly weaker partner in the marriage walks away.
As the play the Homecoming goes, peripeteia is seen to take a more concrete form. To Teddy, the homecoming leaves him returning home alone as the wife remains with his paternal family to partake of harlotry. Above all, peripeteia comes out in the clearest form in Ruth becoming the mother figure to Lenny and Joey, by taking up the place of the late Max's former wife. The same is seen in the instance Max, Teddy's father urges Ruth to remain behind to make money through whoredom, instead of exhorting her to take good care of his son Teddy and his grandchildren in the United States. Normally, a true father would urge the daughter-in-law to observe familial values and to remain focused in the marital commitment to the son. That Max the father to Teddy in his seventies should make sexual overtures to his once daughter-in-law is a peripety in its own and shows the greatest extent of moral decadence that can ever take place in human civilization. The same serves as a warning sign to the consequences and moral destructions that should be realized in a society if social and family values can be sidestepped.
Conversely, in the play the Homecoming, an analyst sees a complex mix of irony and peripety in that by going home to London to see his family and introduce his wife to his family, not only does he forfeit his wife, but his paternal family or first generation family in London is left with a woman (a mother or a wife of sorts) while the second generation family in the US is left motherless and wifeless. Normally, societal conventions have it that upon visiting the husband's paternal family, the bride is normally strengthened, and by extension, the entire family.