‘Blood Blothers’ by Willy Russell is a play about nature versus nurture. Willy Russell’s ‘Blood Brothers’ is set at a crucial time in British history. It is set in Liverpool in the early 1980s at a time when many of the working class were being replaced by machines as it was cheaper. The educated people, though were hardly affected. We see Mrs Johnston a hard-working woman, pregnant, alone with seven children and struggling to pay her debts. Then we see her ‘bright and breezy’, middle class employer Mrs Lyons. At first glance both women seem different, but they both share similar difficulties.
They both are mostly alone and have been abandoned by their husbands. Mrs Johnston’s husband totally abandoned her when the pressure was too much,’me husband walked out on me’. Mrs Lyons has not been totally abandoned by her husband, yet he is always away for long gaps of time when he is on business trips, ‘the company sent him out for about nine months’. This is a huge space in time and is almost like abandoning her. Both women are troubled,yet strong and do not show they are troubled until they have their talk. At this point they are generally on good terms.
Both start to talk about what their troubles, Mrs Johnston tells of her just being acle to get by and Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnston about her great yearning for a baby, her own or adopted. This shows how desperate she is for a baby. This is maybe because she is alone in her big house and yearns for someone to nurture and love. At this point in the play Mrs Johnston seems at her happiest as she is not in any financial or social trouble, she is ‘just getting by’. This pleasant point in the play does not last as a bomb-shell is dropped on Mrs Johnston, the twins.
Her ‘just getting by would not work as an extra baby would put Mrs Johnston into deep financial trouble. Mrs Lyons then suddenly comes along with the solution of her taking one of the babies. This is probably the biggest point in the whole play and it is creativly played on by the narrator ‘how quickly an idea planted can take root into a plan’. This is what happens and after just a brief moment, Mrs Lyons already has a plan. Mrs Johnston is not so eager and is driven into the plan by Mrs Lyons. When she tries to speak she is cut off by Mrs Lyons ‘but, Mrs Lyons, what… ‘.
Mrs Johnston is then tricked into thinking that she will still have the baby it will just be living with Mrs Lyons ‘I will be able to see him every day’ but Mrs Lyons only agrees to this after the deal is made. The only way Mrs Johnson benefits from this deal is financially. The contract is made through Mrs Johnston swearing on the bible, this is not legally binding, but Mrs Johnston is prepared to obey it. The time for Mrs Lyons to take the baby she has been promised comes along, Mrs johnston is defensive and wants to keep the baby but once she is reminded of the verbal contract, ‘you made a promise!
‘ she feels she must obey it, and once again Mrs Lyons gets her own way. The former bond the women once had is now beggining to break as Mrs Lyons has got what she wants and does not need anything else from Mrs Johnston. Mrs Lyons now feels threatened by Mrs Johnston and wants rid of her so she can keep Edward for herself, ‘leave him! ‘ ‘Edward is my son. Mine Mrs Johnston’. Mrs Lyons feels she has to get rid off Mrs Johnston, so she sacks her and tries to force money upon Mrs Johnston to stop her feeling guilty, ‘It’s alot of money.
But we don’t want you to suffer. ‘ This however does not work, as Mrs Johnston threatens to take Edward with her. To prevent this happening Mrs Lyons is forced to make a lie up, a lie which will later send her into the brink of insanity. She says ‘you won’t tell anyone…… because if you do you shall kill them’. Mrs Lyons, again, gets her way. The two women do not meet again in the play until the end. We now see the two brothers develop a relationship, unaware of the truth, they ironically become ‘blood brothers’.
As they are children they do not acknowledge that they have a difference in class and Mickey seems to have power and influence over Eddie as he knows swear words and is exotic to Eddie. But the audience knows that they have been nurtured very differently as Mickey enjoys playing with air guns and playing pranks on people and Eddie is well educated and looks in the dictionary. They already are different, but they do not yet know it. The boys enjoy each others company and thanks to Mickey they get into trouble. The audience then notices the difference in class of the two families by the way the policewoman speaks to both of the mothers.
The policewoman talks down to Mrs Johnston as she is a lower class ‘you keep them in order or it will be the courts for you’. Mrs Lyons, although is spoken to as if Eddie has done nothing wrong ‘it was more of a prank really’. The policewoman gives Mrs Lyons the suggestion to ‘not let him mix with the likes of them in the future’. Mrs Lyons uses this to get Edward away from the Johnston family, not just because she doesn’t want Eddie to get in trouble, more so he isn’t with the Johnston family and so he doesn’t find out the truth.
The two families both move away near the countryside in order to start new lives, but ironically they move near each other. It is a few years later and the boys re-gain their friendship. They are older and wiser and Mickey now notices their class differences he notices Eddie’s ‘posh voice’. Mrs Lyons Lyons doesn’t like the idea of the boys becoming friends again and she is forced almost to the brink of insanity through her becoming superstitious. Superstition plays a big part in the play.
At first, Mrs Johnston is thought to be the superstitious one as she didn’t want Mrs Lyons to put the new shoes on the table. We all, apart from Mrs Johnston herself, notice she is superstitious, Mrs Lyons plays on this and uses it to make Mrs Johnston give up Edward. She lies and says ‘if either twin learns he was one of a pair they both shall die immediately’. This lie soon takes over Mrs Lyons and we see the early signs of this in act three scene two when Mrs Lyons says ‘she’s trying to make me tell you Edward…. but I shan’t kill you, Edward’.
This insanity later grows and costs the twins’ lives. The next three years are generally happy times for the twins and Mickey still has the power and control. Mickey has a job while Edward is still in school, Mickey has his own money and is more independent than Edward. The summer is almost over though and Edward is due to leave for University, this is the last time we see the two boys both happy. Just a few months later the positions have changed. It is Christmas time, but only eddie is still as happy as they were in the ‘free and endless’ summer.
Miickey has grown up alot, been married and lost his job. He has grown up alot in a short space of time, he has to as he has been hit with the blow that many men had in the early eightees, he was made redundant. Eddie, however was still being educated and not had the pressures of the real world hit him yet. Mickey knows this and says to Eddie ‘if i was in your shoes I’d be the same’ and the irony is that maybe if Mrs Lyons would have picked him up, rather than Eddie then he might have been in his ‘shoes’.
The years move on again and Eddie is still on top but now he is the owner of his father’s factory, he set Mickey up for a job in the factory and now has an employer to employee relationship with Mickey. As they speak on the factory floor Mickey is very class concious and avoids speaking to Eddie as much as possible, but Eddie still believes they can be friends, ‘why don’t we have a drink together some time? ‘. Mickey will not let this happen as he feels he must be with his own class, ‘you own the place, Mr Lyons’. This is the greatest power any of them had over each other.
It seems he was nurtured to have that power as his mother also had it with Mrs Johnston. Eddie has power but it seems he would give it all up just to be with his friends. He gives Mickey a job, a house and treats Linda constantly. He loves them both. Mickey thinks that Eddie is having an affair with Linda and controlling his life, but all he wants to do is help them, ‘all I’ve tried to do is help’. Mickey says to Eddie ‘why didn’t i have any power… any control? ‘. this is the most ironic piece in the play as Mickey probaly would of had the power and control.
He doesn’t so he tries to gain some by getting a gun but it isn’t even real. The mother then bursts in and thinks Mickey is trying to kill Eddie, so to stop him she tells him that they are brothers, they hardly have enough time to acknowledge this when Mrs Lyons, fueled by her insanity, tries to kill Mickey so she can just have Eddie ‘I’ll still have Edward’. Eddie dives in front of the bullet and dies Mrs Lyons then kills Mickey. They were both nurtured in different ways yet they still died as they were born- together. ‘They were born and they died on the self same day’.