Which character in the play changes most?
* How the character changes
* The characters role in the play
* How the playwright uses dramatic devices
* How the characters use of language or the language used about the character influences your reaction to them
* How the characters situation and actions reflect social, historical or cultural background
Russell was brought up in Liverpool and he wrote this play in the nineteen seventies. In the play Russell shows the poorer working class background of the Johnston family and the richer more financially secure middle class of the Lyons family. The play is centred on twins who are separated at birth but by fate they meet and ironically swear to become blood brothers. Russell starts the play with Mrs Johnston who is a working class Liverpudlian and a deserted wife with seven children and she is again pregnant but this time with twins. She is forced by Mrs. Lyons to give her one of the twins and the plays unravels by showing how the twins grow up and meet. Although their liking for each other prevails at the start of the play their contrasting backgrounds and upbringing forces them apart and tragedy occurs at the end because this contrast prevents them from having a proper understanding for each other.
The play starts with the narrator who summarises the play so we have an idea of what’s going to happen and there is no curiosity. He starts off the play using the words ‘so did you ever hear the tale…’and ends in the words ‘…let the story begin.’ These words destroy this illusion of reality and make us become more detached from the action on stage so that we become more objective about what we see. Having the narrator on stage makes us see him as the play’s conscience and he makes us believe there is going to be a tragic ending. The narrator’s speech at the start tries to prejudice us against Mrs. Johnston before we even meet her in the play and make our minds up about her for ourselves.
He tells us that we as the audience are the judge and the jury and that we have to ‘judge for ourselves’ whether Mrs. Johnston has committed a ‘terrible sin’ and whether what she has done is morally wrong. After this speech we are introduced to Mrs. Johnston who is known as the ‘Mother’ throughout the scene. This is because Russell wants to emphasis her role and make us think about how hard her life is as a single mother, abandoned by her husband and struggling to bring up her children. Her first speech is a song and the use of music is used by Willy Russell to pass many years and give a quick summary of her life and history. The use of a chorus is also an old dramatic device used by the Ancient Greeks to draw the audiences’ attention to certain important areas of a play. This song is jolly, quick and involving.
Act 1 scene 2 is a short scene where we are shown how Mrs. Johnston is poor and just can’t manage to provide for the children she has already got. Act 1 scene 3 is an important scene which follows. In this scene Mrs. Johnston goes to work for Mrs Lyons to earn a bit of money to feed her kids. It is in this scene that we realise Mrs. Johnston is very religious and at the same time superstitious. We the audience see this when Mrs. Lyons puts the new shoes on the table and Mrs. Johnston shouts, ‘take them off,’ and frantically rubs the table where the shoes were. When the scene freezes and the narrator comes on we realise how Willy Russell has used this superstition as an omen to show us something bad and fateful is going to happen between these two women.
In Act 1 scene 4 Willy Russell tries to add a bit of comedy by bringing on the milkman who is now the so called gynaecologist. It is also a scene where Mrs. Johnston receives some shocking news as she is expecting twins, she was only going to just be able to manage with one more child but with two she has no hope and needs help as the welfare had already been on to her and now they’re bound to take them off her. This is where Mrs. Lyons comes in and offers to help her by taking one of her twins off her. Act 1 scene 5 is a very dramatic scene where Mrs. Lyons plans an idea of taking one the twins off Mrs. Johnston.
As Mrs. Lyons is much cleverer and a much more of a forceful and powerful character then Mrs. Johnston she tries in many ways to make Mrs. Johnston agree. She rushes her to give her an answer and doesn’t give Mrs. Johnston any time to think. She doesn’t even let her finish her speech and Mrs. Johnston has many pauses between her speeches because Mrs. Lyons interrupts her and won’t let her finish. Mrs. Lyons really pushes her, and tries to sound as if she is doing her a favour ‘Already you’re being threatened by the welfare.
With two more … than to have some of them taken into care!’ She also bribes her ‘If he grew up here … as our son … He could have everything.’ and she also threatens her when she doesn’t get a good enough reply ‘At the birth of my twins … all further claim on the said child.’ Mrs Lyons speaks in short, sharp and quick sentences and she tries everything she can to get this baby. In this scene we see a contrast between the two characters as to how Mrs. Johnston cares about her children but also feels sympathy for Mrs. Lyons and how she sees that giving her child to Mrs. Lyons as the only solution. We feel warmth towards her as she is much kinder than Mrs. Lyons and wants the best for the children and she cares for the children not herself.
We also notice how, now that Mrs. Lyons has got what she wants, she pushes away Mrs. Johnston and doesn’t really take much notice of what she is saying e.g. when Mrs Johnston asks ‘I will be able to see him every day won’t I?’ Mrs. Lyons reply is ‘Mm? Oh yes, of course.’ And another example of this happening is when Mrs. Johnston asks ‘I don’t suppose it’s really giving one away is it? I mean it’ll just be like he’s living in another house, won’t it?’ Mrs. Lyons reply is ‘Yes … yes… look right?’ The action made by Mrs. Lyons on stage in Blackpool gives us this impression clearly.
In Act 1 scene 6 we see Mrs. Lyons come to take one of the twins as they are now born. At the start of this scene we see how Mrs. Lyons enters snapping and being horrible and we see Mrs. Johnston pleading with her to keep them e.g. when Mrs. Lyons enters saying ‘They’re born? You didn’t notify me!’ and Mrs. Johnston’s reply is ‘Well I didn’t … they sort of go together and if…’ We then see a change towards the end of the scene where both of them have an opposite character as to what they started with. We see how now Mrs. Lyons feels embarrassed, guilty and awkward for being so forceful and she is the one now who is not finishing her sentences and having to pause a lot and repeat herself a lot. Mrs. Johnston is the much more forceful character now as she leaves short, sharp and quick comments, but Mrs. Lyons wins and the baby is handed over.
Act 1 scene 8 is another dramatic and sombre scene between Mrs. Lyons and Mrs. Johnston. The scene starts off with Mrs. Lyons being angry and delivering very short, direct and to the point comments e.g. ‘No. No! It’s all right … to be picked up.’ and Mrs Johnston replies ‘Ah but look he’s …’ and she doesn’t finish her sentence off before Mrs Lyons interrupts. The scene then goes on to show Mrs. Johnston once again trying to beg Mrs. Lyons to keep her job and she tries to fight back e.g. during the argument when she says ‘OK. All right Mrs Lyons. Right. If … I’m taking my son.’ And Mrs. Lyons replies ‘Oh no you’re not! Edward is my son! Mrs. Lyons threatens then turns to bribery as she is embarrassed about her behaviour. Mrs. Lyons becomes more and more unbalanced and anxious.
She has planned out what she is going to do and has her money ready to thrust into Mrs. Johnston’s hand and get rid of her but, Mrs. Johnston threatens to take her son with her and tell someone. This causes Mrs. Lyons to put her foot down and get physically rough. She actually drags Mrs. Johnston away from the cot and the scene gets very scary. Mrs. Lyons then tries to use Mrs. Johnston’s religion and superstitions against her using. Mrs. Lyons then finally bullies her into leaving. Willy Russell uses this scene to show how fate and destiny control our lives. He also uses the narrator to remind us that a secret can’t be concealed forever and that it is bound to be found out sooner or later ‘There’s no use clutching at your rosary… no you’ll never get away from him.’
I have chosen the character Mickey as being the character that changes the most in the play due to the evidence I am providing which shows how he changes from a young innocent child into an adult who is depressed and lonely. Mickey is first introduced in the play in Act 2 scene1. The first words he speaks on stage are ‘Mother. Will you open the bleeding door or what?’ The word ‘bleeding’ to me stands out a lot as it is not a word you would expect to hear from someone who is only seven! The rest of this scene shows us a typical scene in many households today where Mickey, who is the youngest, complains to his mother about his brother taking his things off him. Towards the end of this scene Mickey says a poem which shows us how he sees the world and how he’d love to be older. This adds humour to the play and is an important role of Mickey’s as a child.
Act 2 scene 2 is an important scene due to Fate. Despite the fact that both mothers have tried to keep the twins apart they meet up. On stage we notice a huge difference between Edward, the middle – class twin and Mickey the working class one. It is in this scene that you see how your upbringing affects you and differentiates you from others. Immediately in this scene you realise how Mickey is the more dominating twin and how he likes to be in control. In this scene Eddie mentions looking up the ‘F word’ in the ‘dictionary’ and even though Mickey doesn’t know what one is he tries not to show this and says ‘it’s a thingy isn’t it.’ This scene also shows how Eddie is really attracted to Mickey because he knows all these interesting words and does all these naughty but, yet fun things, which Eddie is not familiar with because he is more sheltered, well mannered and cultured.
Towards the end of this scene Mickey and Eddie become blood brothers but when they are swearing the oath Mickey’s mother interrupts and this is a symbol that shows us they won’t stay blood brothers forever and there will always be something between them. The main point put across in this scene is the difference in character between Mickey and Eddie. Mickey comes across as being rough, popular, less formal and he uses a lot of colloquial words. Wheras Eddie is much more formal, posh, grammatically correct, polite, lonely and isolated. When we watched the play on stage in Blackpool we visually saw these differences not only in the clothes the actors wore and their hair styles but, also audially with the way they spoke as in their language choices and accent.
Act 2 scene 3 is a very dramatic scene where there is huge dramatic irony. This scene is where Mickey comes to ask if Eddie can come and play and when Eddie is about to go Mrs Lyons stops him. This upsets Eddie as he is really attracted to Mickey so he argues with his mother and ends up saying he hates her which causes her to slap him but then immediately she feels ashamed and tries to explain to him. He is so mad with his mum that he calls her a ‘fuckoff.’ This causes her to physically lose control and hit, shake and throw him. This scene shows how Mrs Lyons is going mad because she doesn’t want her son to mix with Mickey. When Mrs. Lyons sees this boy she panics and becomes anxious and tries to get rid of him quickly. Mrs. Lyons’ language breaks down because of her shock towards her son’s change in behaviour ‘His second name … his second name is Johnston … isn’t it Edward?’
From Act 2 scene 4 to Act 2 scene 8 we, as the audience, see a lot happening on stage. The first thing we notice is in Act 2 scene 4 where Eddie chooses Mickey over his mother and this symbolises how Eddie sees Mickey as a leader. In Act 2 scene 5 we see a visual reminder on stage of Mrs Lyons breaking down, trying to change things and move away. She tries to break this friendship as she is frightened she’ll lose Edward and he’ll go back to his mother. In Act 2 scene 6 we see Eddie getting into trouble and we notice how much he believes in Mickey’s words and we see how Mickey has got charisma in the way he can sound very convincing. In Act 2 scene 7 we see how each class is given a different degree of respect. We see this by the way the policewoman talks to the two families. When she talks to Mrs. Johnston we see the way she talks down to her and the way she talks and treats Mrs. Johnston like a baby ‘And he was about to commit a serious crime, love … Yes, it will.’ Whereas when the policewoman talks to Mrs. Lyons she talks up to her and sucks up to her. She also speaks to Mrs. Lyons politely and eloquently also the way the policewoman speaks to Mrs. Lyons is as if she is in awe of Mrs. Lyons.
Act 2 scene 9 and Act 2 scene 10 we see two contrasting scenes between the Lyons family and the Johnston family. In the first scene we see how Mrs Lyons and Eddie talk to each other in a formal but distant way ‘Well Edward do you like it here? …’. Whereas in the next scene we see how Mickey and his mother speak to each other. The way they speak is very close and happily they also know each other well and speak closely and lovingly towards each other ‘I’m not laughing. I’m smiling. I haven’t seen you happy like this for ages.’
Act 3 is quite a light-hearted act. We see the things that Eddie and Mickey have in common rather than the things that make them different. They are both shy of the opposite sex but Eddie is still in awe of Mickey and especially of his relationship with Linda.
In Act 4 scene 1 the narrator starts the scene again explaining what has happened in the time that has passed. We are reminded that fate is going to intervene and it’s not going to be all happiness for them. Eddie commits to a selfless act and gets Mickey to ask Linda out by giving him some very funny advice and urging him on so he gets enough courage to do it. The scene towards the end gets very scary as Mrs. Lyons appears and we, the audience, know what she is saying and we can piece it together but, Eddie can’t figure it out and doesn’t know what she’s on about. The woman who at the start appeared so strong, dominant and forceful has now totally lost it.
In Act 4 scene 2 the narrator once again starts the scene by stressing this darker mood ‘It was one day in October when … Yes, all bowed down before them as their deeds were done.’ We see in this scene how Mickey has lost his job not because he’s a bad worker but, because of the economy. He is seen as a helpless victim of circumstances beyond his control. In this scene Mickey realises he shouldn’t mix with Eddie because he’s not the same as him. Mickey now feels there is a lot of difference between them because he has lost not only his job but his confidence, pride, self esteem, dignity and he has a baby to support on the way. The stage version of ‘Blood Brothers’ makes more of Mickey’s situation as it shows Mickey getting into trouble, with the law, going to jail and getting depressed.
It shows this using his body language, he stutters and he’s a nervous wreck. It also shows how Linda is having a hard time as she is stuck at home working and then she has problems with Mickey and she tries to get him off the anti-depressants. Willy Russell uses Mickey as a mouth piece for hundreds and thousands of other people in the world in his same situation, unskilled workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own but whose lives are wrecked as a result. In contrast Eddie is having a carefree time as a student at University. His father owns a business and Eddie’s future seems promising and secure.
Eddie tries to help Mickey behind his back by getting him a job at his father’s factory. When the two meet again after several years Mickey snubs any friendship offers from Eddie. Mickey feels there can be no friendship between the boss’s son and the employee but when he rejects Eddie’s offer to get him a better job because this is his job and when he states he got it himself no-one gave it to him the audience, aware of the dramatic irony, fears for what will happen when Mickey discovers the truth.
In Act 5 scene 2 Eddie tries to get some life back into Linda by occasionally taking her out for a drink or meal to chat and get things off her chest. He also tries to help as much as possible by arranging for them to have a new house. We see in this scene that Linda is a strong character with a backbone. Linda wants a place for her children and by fate Eddie is there for her. We also realise how hard Linda’s life is in the mother’s narrator speech. We also see how hard the couple’s life is and how difficult the marriage is. The pair are now falling apart as when they were younger they were close. Once Mickey finds out the truth he doesn’t hate Eddie he is just jealous and angry that Eddie had everything and that he, Mickey couldn’t give Linda what she wanted. The argument between them gives a lot of detail about them. As a result of the argument Mickey realises he has accomplished nothing in his life ‘Eddie, Eddie! And I thought it was. I thought it was my job. My house … my wife.’ Another quote I’ve found to back my point is ‘Have I got anything that doesn’t belong to Eddie?’
The audience feels sorry for Mickey as at the start he is quite scary but, we later realise why he has changed and become depressed and sad. Finally at the end we are again reminded by the narrator that this is just a ‘tale’ and a ‘story’ but this makes it more universal rather than just about one particular set of twins.
Looking over the scenes from where Mickey is first introduced to where he dies I see him change a lot due to many serious issues I have discussed in this essay. At first we see an innocent little child getting into trouble but having the time of his life and then later on we go on to see how he becomes depressed, gets involved with crime, and turns into the ‘workhouse donkey’ ‘old before his time’ as he struggles to provide for his wife and family on minimum wages. The main point that gets to him at the end is the fact that he was Eddie’s twin but Eddie got everything and he got nothing but pain and sadness.
I think the most moving line in the play is where Mickey asks his mother ‘Why didn’t you give me away mam?’ Mickey’s role in the play was to be the poorer one of the twins who feels he got absolutely nothing out of his life at the end before he was killed apart from sadness, anger, jealousy and sorrow for himself. He ended up losing his most prized possession his wife whom he couldn’t keep happy and his self confidence which left him a long time ago. I think this change is the result of his social background and Russell depicts him as caught in a cycle of poverty and ultimately despair.