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Discuss the characters of Maggie and Hobson in their dramatic context. Comment on how they illustrate and highlight the roles of men and women in their Victorian social context.

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Introduction

English Coursework 20th Century Drama Discuss the characters of Maggie and Hobson in their dramatic context. Comment on how they illustrate and highlight the roles of men and women in their Victorian social context. The play "Hobson's Choice" is an invigorating character comedy set in Salford, a town near Manchester. It is also a biting commentary on the Victorian values that overhung into the early twentieth century, when it was written. It pits Henry Horatio Hobson, an alcoholic old shop owner, against his forceful daughter Maggie, who is determined to break out of the dull boot shop and the life of genteel spinsterhood that awaits her. "Hobson's Choice" looks at the Victorian class and gender stereotypes, and then blows them to pieces. Hobson himself has clear ideas about the place of women, which he frequently expresses. His view is that "a wife is a handy thing", yet that men who marry are "putting chains upon themselves". This shows him to be a sexist hypocrite, but perhaps he is a product of his time? His views on class are equally pronounced, since he declares Willie unfit for Maggie to marry because "his father was a workhouse brat", and similarly treats Mrs Hepworth with great respect, though she -being in the class well above Hobson- treats him with disdain. ...read more.

Middle

Hobson's stubbornness makes it hard to forgive him his sins, though he does repent at the end of the play. Maggie could quite possibly have saved Hobson, had he listened to her advice. It is a testimony to the depth and realism of Harold Brighouse's writing that Maggie is entirely plausible as the offspring of bluff Hobson, and the presumably tactful and clever Mrs Hobson. She is the protagonist of the play "Hobson's Choice" and, superficially at least, it's most responsive and shrewd character. She is the eldest daughter of Hobson, and while she has the respect of much of Salford, she suffers none of the nonsense of the class system. She has a love of all things practical, useful and tangible, but a hidden sentimentality not obvious in the beginning of the play. She illustrates and highlights the role of women in the nineteenth century in a number of ways. Superficially, she is the anti-stereotype of a Victorian housewife. She is thirty, has not married, has a good head for business and finance, and is almost entirely in control of the boot shop, whatever Hobson might think. She is the mark of sanity against which the absurdities of Hobson, Alice, Vickey, and indeed Willie can be compared. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hobson relies on women to run around after him, and allow him to live in the lifestyle which he prefers -going to the pub constantly, doing absolutely no work, and expecting a meal on the table when he returns from his drinking. This is one possible interpretation of the roles of men and women in the 1880s, but at best it is an abuse of the system that should provide marriages, which last financially, are beneficial to both families, and allow the couple to raise a family of their own. Hobson is almost certainly dimly aware of this, but has convinced himself in his alcoholic stupor that he is in the right. Maggie on the other hand shows us what a woman can be, even while sticking broadly to the rules and expectations of the Victorian middle class. She can run a business, though not in public, can choose her partner, and will in all probability end up as a Mrs Hepworth - strong, dominant, rich and independent. Despite Maggie's evident success in the nineteenth century, consider what a woman of her character and skills could be in the twenty-first century, and then the injustice of her position is immediately obvious. Ultimately however, "Hobson's Choice" is a play with a feminist message, and that is all the more impressive considering its setting. 5/9/07 Owen Sanderson Page 1 ...read more.

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