Max, the head of the household enters from the direction of the Kitchen. Max looks for a pair of scissors. He tries communicating with Lenny but receives no answer. There is a slight air of tension. Max’s character is establish extremely early on, when he reacts to being told to shut up, by Lenny, with threats and uses his walking stick as a threatening, potential weapon. There is some humorous banter and conversational intercourse between the two. Max dominates a lot of the talking and sometimes is in converse with himself. We are given early clues of the odd relationship that the family had with Max’s dead wife.
Max uses a metaphor involving horses to show his distrust of women. Uncle Sam enters the house in his chauffeur’s uniform. Lenny greets him. Sam describes his day, his entrance is quite self-obsessed. Max behaves like a child and demands attention. Sam shares his cigars he received from a client with Max. There is obvious tension between Sam and Max, it seems even more so than there had been between Max and Lenny. Max challenges Sam’s masculinity. We are given an incite of what is to come when Max’s describes what would happen if Sam had a bride. Joey comes in the front door.
He walks into the room and removes his jacket. He is quite monosyllabic. He makes short statements like “Feel a bit Hungry” he uses ellipses where he misses out words like I. The tension builds to a small climax when Joey enters and the unit is superficially complete. Lenny leaves after a small confrontation with Max, where molestation is implied. Max explains to Joey how he needs to improve his boxing. Max implies he knows how to attack and defend himself. Joey exits the room. Max and Sam are left. Sam shows his feelings for McGregor, a brother who died. Max reveals information about his father.
The play moves along to night time when everyone is asleep. Two well dressed individuals enter the room. Teddy and Ruth are Husband and Wife. They have an awkward and brief conversation; it reveals Teddy is a member of the family. Teddy gives the impression to his wife, his family are very warm people. Ruth leaves the house for a walk. Lenny enters the room. Teddy and Lenny talk. Lenny shows that the family is complete and that time seems to only pass when they are all together by saying something is ticking in his room now. The situation feels uncomfortable and Teddy goes to bed.
Lenny sits and Ruth enters. They have a discussion, they learn who each other is and Lenny tries exerting his power over Ruth by telling a threatening story of an encounter a women had with him. Sexual tension builds and Ruth leaves Lenny shouting “What was that supposed to be? Some kind of proposal? ” Ruth goes upstairs and then Max comes down. Max questions Lenny’s presence in the lounge. Lenny doesn’t tell Max, Teddy is back and with his new Wife Ruth. The Morning begins with Joey boxing in the mirror. He is doing some slow limbering exercises. Max enters, watches Joey. Joey picks up a paper and sits.
Max complains about Sam always in the Kitchen. We see that Sam supplies the mother qualities to the family unit, like washing up. Teddy and Ruth come down the stairs. Max is shocked to see them. He is extremely rude about Teddy’s wife, Max’s hatred and suspicion of women is obvious. The act ends on a strange twist of emotion from what has just happened in the scene. The act ends on “He still loves his father. ” Act two begins with Sam, Max, Teddy and Lenny about the stage smoking cigars. Joey and Ruth enter with Coffee. They discuss lunch and Max reminisces of his wife and imagines what she would say if she was there now.
Sam after a brief argument with Max, stands, shakes Ruth’s hand and leaves. The family learn of the family Teddy has in America. Lenny poses a philosophical question to Teddy. Pinter’s absurd elements appear; the questioning of life and the meaning of it in a Godless world. Max, Joey and Lenny leave the house. Max and Joey go to the gym. Teddy tells Ruth he has decided to cut the trip short and he plans to leave that day. We see his disapproval of his family. He goes upstairs to pack. Lenny enters and begins to speak with Ruth. Ruth reveals some information of her past. She used to be a model.
Teddy comes down the stairs with the cases. He puts them down and looks at Lenny. Lenny asks for a dance with Ruth before they leave. They dance to jazz music. Max and Joey enter the room. Lenny kisses Ruth. Joey proclaims “old Lenny’s got a tart in here. ” Lenny sits o the arm of the sofa stroking Ruth’s hair as Joey embraces her. Max ask if Teddy is leaving already. Joey lies heavily on Ruth. Joey and Ruth roll of the sofa, after leading them on Ruth pushes Joey away and stands. She demands a drink, the men are now under her control. The play moves to evening and Teddy is sitting in his coat with the cases by him.
Sam is in the room. They speak and we see Sam’s favouritism towards Teddy. He tells Teddy he was his Mothers favourite as well. This further shows how Sam has filled the role of Jessie, Max’s dead wife. Lenny enters and him and Teddy have a confrontation over Teddy eating Lenny’s cheese roll. Sam leaves. Teddy seeks revenge for Lenny stealing his wife by taking his cheese roll. Joey comes down the stairs and into the room. They discuss about how he got on with Ruth. Joey did have sex with Ruth and he seems dissatisfied and Lenny believes she is a tease. Sam and Max enter.
They tell Max, Ruth is a tease. They decide to put Ruth on the game. Make her a prostitute. They decide to buy her a flat. Ruth comes down the stairs. They tell her they have invited her to stay. She haggles with them to come to a deal about her living arrangements and finance. Sam stands up and in one breath shouts “Macgregor had Jessie in the back of my cab as I drove them along. ” He then falls to ground with a heart attack. He doesn’t die but it shows the replacement of the mother figure. Teddy leaves and Ruth takes Max’s chair as a sign of her domination.