First, here is the extract of the scene:
LENNY: […] So after a few minutes I said to her, now look here, why don't you stuff this iron mangle up your arse? Anyway, I said, they're out of date, you want to get a spin drier. I had a good mind to give her a workover there and then, but as I was feeling jubilant with the snow-clearing I just gave her a short-arm jab to the belly and jumped on a bus outside. Excuse me, shall I take this ashtray out of your way?
RUTH. It's not in my way.
LENNY. It seems to be in the way of your glass. The glass was about to fall. Or the ashtray.
I'm rather worried about the carpet. It's not me, it's my father. He's obsessed with order
and clarity. He doesn't like mess. So, as I don't believe you're smoking at the moment, I'm
sure you won't object if I move the ashtray.
He does so.
And now perhaps I'll relieve you of your glass.
RUTH. I haven't quite finished.
LENNY. You've consumed quite enough, in my opinion.
RUTH. No, I haven't.
LENNY. Quite sufficient, in my own opinion.
RUTH. Not in mine, Leonard.
LENNY. Don't call me that, please.
RUTH. Why not?
LENNY. That's the name my mother gave me.
Just give me the glass.
LENNY. I'll take it, then.
RUTH. If you take the glass... I'll take you.
LENNY. How about me taking the glass without you taking me?
RUTH. Why don't I just take you?
LENNY. You're joking.
You're in love, anyway, with another man. You've had a secret liaison with another man. His
family didn't even know. You come here without a word of warning and start to make
She picks up the glass and lifts it towards him.
RUTH. Have a sip. Go on. Have a sip from my glass.
He is still.
Sit on my lap. Take a long cool sip.
She pats her lap. Pause.
She stands, moves to him with the glass.
Put your head back and open your mouth.
LENNY. Take that glass away from me.
RUTH. Lie on the floor. Go on. I'll pour it down your throat.
LENNY. What are you doing, making me some kind of proposal?
She laughs shortly, drains the glass.
RUTH. Oh, I was thirsty.
She smiles at him, puts the glass down, goes into the hall and up the stairs.
He follows into the hall and shouts upstairs.
LENNY. What was that supposed to be? Some kind of proposal?
He comes back into the room, goes to his own glass, drains it.
A door slams upstairs.
The landing light goes on.
MAX comes down the stairs, in pyjamas and cap. He comes into the room.
MAX. What’s going on here? You drunk?
Now, here is my analysis of the scene:
The mangle and the spin dryer, as mechanical versus electrical powered tools, represent old age against new youth in the power struggle between Max and Lenny. Mangle is also a violent sexual metaphor while the spin drier implies both dizziness and the removal of water from the family as they spin in verbal and sexual circles. The water is a symbol for life, spirit and essence and this laundry prelude adds depth and texture to the water-glass scene. The mangle-drier image sets the terms of the Ruth-Lenny conflict as the drying metaphor represents their mutual domestic interest-and separation. Lenny would use physical force to 'mangle' Ruth but she spins him in psychological cycles.
Lenny seeks to attract and intimidate Ruth with his violent story that he thinks demonstrates ‘the facts’ of his strength and virility. Lenny indirectly reveals he objectifies women and his dehumanisations open him to being used in turn as an object in Ruth’s game. Ruth does not respond to the past story but to the present ashtray. Ruth is interested in power over 'things' -including people- rather than in language. She uses her words to move men as things. ‘It’s not in my way’ undercuts Lenny’s power-play as she dismisses his verbiage and linguistic control. Lenny's language bears no relationship on or to her.
This undercutting is one of the four main power turns. The first power-shift in Lenny’s re-naming becomes a sexual threat in ‘I’ll take you’ which is pushed deepr and darker through the directly physical command to ‘lie on the floor. I’ll pour it down your throat.’ From the first carpet image their status positions are reversed. In the psychic wrestling game Lenny is psychologically and verbally floored by Ruth. The mess on the carpet is Lenny. As Ruth drinks the water his sexual hope empties and disappears but she fills his mind with interior temptation, fantasy and dreams. When she leaves to go upstairs in a sign of her ascendancy Lenny calls after her. The absence of her answer intensifies his frustration, agitation and fascination. Ruth is at the top of the home-house stage-set as symbol of the power structure she climbs man-by-man.
She leaves Lenny alone onstage until Max descends descends the stairs and another power struggle begins. Family is, in The Homecoming, not a source of comfort or values but a battleground.