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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
The Theme of Alienation in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming
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Harold Pinter’s plays present a dissatisfied, cruel, and cold portrait of the world. His plays are about incomprehensibility. As Pinter (quoted in Gabbard 1976, 155) puts it, “There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. The thing is not necessarily either true or false: it can be both true and false.” This creates an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and alienation. An atmosphere of dread and alienation is simply evoked by the stage protagonists engaged in conversational repetitiveness and seeming irrationality, served up as objects of interest in and by themselves. Ruth’s description of her home in America as “all rock and sand” is not long in actual word count, but the pauses between her statements make America sound even more barren than her description of it would indicate. This paper critically looks at alienation as an unavoidable cohort of life as long as our world is differently manipulated and thus left impoverished.

 
 
 

Nature and literature have always shared a close relationship. Johnson (2009, 7), in her essay, “Greening the Library: The Fundamentals and Future of Ecocriticism,” writes, “When subjected to ecocriticism, literature of all periods and places—not only ecocentric or environmental literature or nature writing, but all literature—is viewed in terms of place, setting, and/or environment, all of which have taken on richer meaning.” Ecocriticism, Johnson (ibid.) says, poses a variety of questions, one of which is: “Do authors impute certain values and make assumptions when they present the environment and nonhuman life in their works?” In recent times, literature is also used to portray the concerns about the changes in the environment. The continuous misuse of the environment by humanity has only recently caught the attention of the writers. The ecocritics reflect this environmental crisis in contemporary literature, and the concern has given rise to a new branch of literary theory, namely, Ecocriticism.

The word “ecocriticism” first appeared in 1978 in Rueckert’s (1996) essay, “Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism.” However, scholars working in this field of literary theory remained marginal until the early 1990s, i.e., when the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) was established in 1992, along with the Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE) in 1993.

According to Eagleton (2011, 236), “The two great threats to human survival that now confront us are military and environmental.” Similarly, Rousseau (1754) observes that the progress of civilization in the domination of nature has been achieved at the price of increased social inequality, alienation, and military conflict. Ecocritical approach studies the relationship between literature and the science of ecology by applying ecological concepts to literature. Glotfelty (Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, xviii) defines it thus: “Ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment.” It aspires to explore the impact and the relationship between literature and physical environment. Man and environment, be it social or physical, are intimately related to each other. We cannot conceive the presence of one in the absence of the “other.”

According to Bate (2000, 48), “Ecological exploitation is always coordinated with social exploitation.” Similarly, the twentieth century playwright Harold Pinter could not escape from the influence of his social exploitation. He was born on October 10, 1930 in a working-class neighborhood in Hackney, London, England, to Hyman and Frances Pinter. Pinter’s father was a tailor. Due to economic insecurity, his father worked very hard. Eventually, he lost his business and had to work for someone else. The condition of Pinter’s early life provided his characters the ambition and desire for a stable economic life. His otherwise happy childhood was marred by the terror of the London air raids during the Second World War. The period was one of great turmoil. The fascists who took over governments in Germany and Italy during the 1930s followed racial policies and, supported by English fascists, threatened the Jews in England. At the start of England’s war with Germany in 1939, Pinter, along with other children, had to evacuate and return home several times during the war. As Pinter says, “Everyone encounters violence in some way or other. It so happens I did encounter it in quite an extreme form after the war, in the East End, when the Fascists were coming back to life in England. . . . There was a good deal of violence there, in those days” (Bensky 1966). Pinter had refused to join the army twice and had to face the tribunal for doing so. He wanted security as he knew the kind of destruction a war brings. The idea of a war is also dangerous to the environment and he knew that.

 
 
 

Integrated Approach,Theme of Alienation,tmosphere of Suspicion, Fear, and
Alienation,Seeming Irrationality, Served up.