Compare how Willy Russell portrays the two mothers in 'Blood Brothers'. Account for the different reactions the audience will have to the two women throughout the play.

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Compare how Willy Russell portrays the two mothers in ‘Blood Brothers’. Account for the different reactions the audience will have to the two women throughout the play.

The play ‘Blood Brothers’ revolves, around the subject of ‘separated twins’. Willy Russell, the playwright, set ‘Blood Brothers’ in post Second World War Liverpool in the 1950s, a time when the image of being Marilyn Monroe was every girl’s dream. It was also a time when people were striving to make ends meet because unemployment was high after the war. The character of Mrs Johnston represented one such person, Willy Russell constructed her as a poor working class single mother, who through necessity, had to give one of her twin boys away to her more wealthy, childless employer, Mrs Lyons. It was from the initial giving away of the child that the plots are developed. Willy Russell created two very different mothers to explore the effects of nature and nurture, superstition, class, power and dreams.

Throughout the play, Willy Russell explores situations that mirror issues and problems within modern society. The nature and nurture issue is explored as soon as Mrs Johnston was manipulated by her employer into giving away her twin baby boy. Mrs Lyons preys on her employee being poor and already having to provide for her seven children. As Mrs Johnston was pregnant again with a pair of twins, two new additions to the already large family, she naturally finds the prospect of coping financially almost too much to bear. It is not surprising that she gives one of the children away to Mrs Lyons. When the twins are separated the friendship between the two women deteriorates and they both become determined that the two boys, Eddie and Mickey, should not meet or associate with each other. Ironically, the twins grew up to become friends and blood brothers. However, their contrasting environments and backgrounds force them apart and eventually cause the tragic ending.

From the beginning of the play, the mother – Mrs Johnston reveals facts about her life to the audience. From this we discover that she used to be young, active and beautiful but because she became pregnant, she had to marry the father of the unborn baby. As she grew older, her beauty and youth faded away and she became the mother of seven and fell pregnant again. Her husband then left her for a girl, who resembled Marilyn Monroe. From the first encounter with Mrs Johnston, the audience learn a lot about her background and the society she lives in. The idea of dancing and Marilyn Monroe is suggested repeatedly: “He told me I was sexier than Marilyn Monroe and we went dancing… They said the bride was lovelier than Marilyn Monroe and we went dancing… me husband had walked out on me a month or two ago for a girl, they say who looks a bit like Marilyn Monroe and they go dancing.” This suggests the dreams and fantasies Mrs Johnston and every other young woman had at that stage. The conception of Marilyn Monroe is that she was glamorous, beautiful, young and carefree; every girl wanted to be her and every man wanted to be with her. However this is far from the truth. Marilyn Monroe was a tragic figure, who, behind the beauty and the glamour, was vulnerable, bewildered, and weary, which ultimately killed her. Willy Russell used this to reflect on the society in which Mrs Johnston lived, a society which was affected by the dreams and fantasies that blinded her of the reality, the poverty and sadness of day to day living.

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The audience’s first encounter with Mrs Johnston reveals her background both through the songs that she sings and the language she uses. The fact that she had to marry the father of her unborn child suggests the prejudices of that period of time. To have a baby before you were married was seen as shameful and improper. Also the fact that she became pregnant indicates the lack of appropriate health education and contraception. Mrs Johnston sings in her Liverpudlian accent and uses very common phrases, which illustrate her working class background. “Me husband had walked out on me…” says she. ...

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