Violence has a presence in the working class characters’ lives from a young age. When we first meet Mickey as a seven year old, he has a toy gun and he plays games involving imaginary guns with his friends and neighbours. The violence escalates as the play progresses, culminating in the tragic death of Mickey and Edward. Sammy, Mickey’s older brother, is a key character linked to this theme and he is connected in some way to most of the violent acts in the play. Violence reflects a lack of control; when characters start to lose power in some way, they become more violent.
The working class children are linked to violence from a young age
How does Russell show this?
When we see Mickey and his friends as young children, they play a variety of games that are all linked to guns and death.
At this point, the violence is only pretend and after being ‘killed’, the children can join the game again. However, the games foreshadow the later violence at the end of the play, and remind the audience of how present this is in the characters’ lives.
Sammy gets Mickey involved in an armed robbery
How does Russell show this?
Sammy persuades Mickey to be a lookout when he robs a garage, but the robbery goes wrong and Sammy shoots someone.
Sammy is able to persuade Mickey to get involved with this violent act because he has such little power over his life after losing his job. It is this event which leads to him going to prison and becoming depressed and then growing apart from Linda, which causes her to find comfort with Edward. Sammy involving Mickey in his plan is the catalyst for the tragic ending.
Mrs Lyons becomes violent towards Mrs Johnstone
How does Russell show this?
When Mrs Lyons realises that the Johnstones have also moved to the countryside (and Edward has been visiting them) she visits Mrs Johnstone to try to persuade her to leave.
Mrs Lyons becomes irrational and paranoid and accuses Mrs Johnstone of following her. She then lunges at Mrs Johnstone with a kitchen knife. This reflects how violence is linked to feelings of powerlessness and instability. Violence is a reaction by characters to their feelings of weakness and lack of control over what happens to them.
Mickey shoots Edward by accident
How does Russell show this?
When Mickey is full of fury at Edward and Linda’s betrayal, his first thought is to take a gun to find his ‘blood brother’.
[Mickey waves at Edward with his gun hand. The gun explodes and blows Edward apart. Mickey turns to the police screaming the word “No”. They open fire and four guns explode, blowing Mickey away.]
Mickey taking the gun and going to find Edward reflects how he has resorted to violence to fight his own lack of control, like Mrs Lyons. However, Mickey shooting Edward is accidental. This demonstrates how violence can take over the characters’ lives. The repetition of the word reflects the devastating impact that violence has on the play and characters.
How does Russell explore the theme of violence in Blood Brothers?
- Violence is present throughout the play, becoming more and more serious as the play develops. Sammy starts off playing with toy guns and pretend games like the other children, but moves on to threatening a bus conductor with a knife and then committing an armed robbery.
- Mickey looks up to Sammy and is drawn into the violence as he gets more desperate due to his unemployment.
- Characters become violent when they feel despairing or feel like they have lost control over their lives. This is clear through the characters of Mrs Lyons and Mickey in particular.
Exploration of Themes in Blood Brothers
- Length: 895 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Exploration of Themes in Blood Brothers
Blood Brothers is a hugely popular play and musical written by the
well-known author of Educating Rita, Willy Russell. It is fast moving
and perceptive, entertaining and thought-provoking, funny yet
ultimately tragic. It tells the tale of twin brothers who are born
into a large working-class family and what happens when their mother
decides to have one of them adopted. Blood Brothers looks at the
differences and conflicts of their upbringings, their relationships
with each other and with their real and adopted mothers. The play is
set in Liverpool, 1962 and continues for around 20 years. Mrs
Johnstone and her family live in a poor part of Liverpool in contrast
Mr and Mrs Lyons lives a comfortable life in the more comfortable end
There are many themes used in 'Blood Brothers', the main ones being
based on class and superstition. In the country, class effects how
people are able to live their lives and the situations they are in. In
'Blood Brothers' Mrs Johnstone lives in a poor end of Liverpool,
struggling to bring up eight children on her own and is forced to give
one away to keep the others clothed and fed well enough, whereas Mrs
Lyons, whom she works for, lives in a large house, very comfortably in
a nice part of Liverpool, she wants children but is unable to have
any, even though she is rich, unlike Mrs Johnstone.
Love is a theme, shown by the two women who love their sons but show
it in completely different ways, and how Linda's Close friendship
slowly gets replaced with love for Eddie and Mickey. Along with
superstition, this is the basis of the whole story and is a theme that
continues throughout the whole play, the consequences of most of the
happenings can be traced back to superstition. It is also the reason
for the tragic end of the play. Superstition also features heavily in
some of the songs, the best example of this is the song "Shoes upon
the table" that features quite early on, when Mrs Lyons uses Mrs
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Johnstones fear of superstition to her advantage, as can be seen from
the following lines just before the song. "Mrs. Lyons:
They...they say that if either twin learns that he was one of a pair,
they shall both immediately die. It means Mrs. Johnstone that these
brothers shall grow up unaware of the others existence. They shall be
raised apart and never, ever told what was once the truth. You won't
tell anyone about this, Mrs. Johnstone, because if you do, you will
Followed by the Narrator busting into song:
" Shoes upon the table
An' a spider's been killed.
A full moons shinin'
An' the salts been spilled.
You're walkin' on the pavement cracks
Don't know what's gonna come to pass."
All of these are bad omens foretelling what is to come.
There's also the theme of friendship, linked between Mickey, Eddie and
Linda and how they are all friends, but it gradually brakes apart,
Mickey and Linda's friendship develops into love, and Mickey and
Eddie's friendship firstly breaks up when Eddie is forced to move away
by his parents, then again later in the play when Mickey becomes
depressed he begins to become jealous of Eddie, again leading up to
the tragic consequences. Hate then becomes part of the play, as Mrs
Lyons comes to despise Mrs Johnstone because of the situation both
women are in with the twins.
Violence features heavily in the play. The most notable example of
physical conflict is when Mickey shoots Eddie. The audience are
reminded of the superstition that the brothers would die if they were
to find out they were in fact twins. This builds dramatic tension and
then this tension dies away after the climax of the shooting. The
verbal conflict in the play takes place mainly between the female
characters. A striking example is when Mrs. Lyons goes in to Mrs.
Johnston house and they argue. The sentences are short - "Don't lie!"
for example in order to create a build up of tension. This tension is
released when Mrs. Lyons attempts to stab Mrs. Johnston. The theme of
violence is present from the start of the play, although is more
subtle at the begging, for example when the children are playing
games, their song depicting several deaths, but at the end of each
one, the audience is reminded of the children's innocence and that
they are just playing, by the repetition of the verse
"But you know that if you're cross your fingers,
And if you count from one to ten,
You can get up off the ground again,
It doesn't matter the whole thing's just a game."
Mrs Johnstone is fulfilled with the theme of guilt through out most of
the play because of giving her son Edward away to Mrs Lyons, but also
Mrs Lyons feels guilt because she has lied to everyone about Edward
being her own son, she lied to her husband, friends, family and even
Edward himself. Mickey also becomes to feeling guilt because he is so
depressed he cannot support himself or his family (Linda and their
child) and he has to rely on Linda and Mrs Johnstone to actually
The Narrator in Blood Brothers is used in many ways, his main role is
to be a foreboding figure or a "voice of fate", Warning as time gets
closer to the ending Tragedy a good example of this is in one of his
songs, he warns that the time of Eddie and Mickey's death is getting
close by singing:
"Yes, y' know the devil's got your number
He's gonna find y'
Y' know he's right behind y',
He's standin' on your step
And he's knocking at your door.
He's knocking at your door,
He's knocking at your door"
This is added to by the use of superstitions about bad luck in each of
his speeches, for example his listing of many superstitions quoted
earlier in this essay..
As the story progresses the Narrators Speeches are gradually getting
more serious as time goes on, until right before the shooting when he
is literally shouting out trying to warn them. This is Probably the
reason that the Narrator is usually presented as quite a shady
character, who is telling the story through someone else's eyes other
than the people involved giving us a better idea of what's going on,
from the view of someone there, and someone who is not biased at all.
This is much better as the viewer can relate to what the Narrator is
seeing; yet he adds much more to the overall suspense and excitement.
The Narrator also plays a important part in keeping the story flowing,
because he acts as a vital of link between each part of the play, this
means that he can give hints about the next scene and act without
anything being preformed, this results in the audience being more
entertained by the suspense even though nothing important or exiting
may be happening at that time in the play.