Blood Brothers

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Mrs. Johnstone Character Analysis

The biological mother of Mickey and Edward (as well as a horde of other children, including Sammy and Donna Marie), Mrs. Johnstone is a deeply superstitious woman who is forever scrambling to get by, but has a good heart and a strong sense of right and wrong. After being left by her husband, she believes that she has no choice but to give up one of her twin boys—Edward—to her wealthy employer, Mrs. Lyons. As the play goes forward, Mrs. Johnstone becomes tortured by guilt and regret, though she remains kind and loving despite her grief. She is the moral center of the play, and survives the play’s deadly finale despite the fact that both of her youngest sons are dead.

Mrs. Johnstone Quotes in Blood Brothers

The Blood Brothers quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Johnstone or refer to Mrs. Johnstone. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class and Money Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bloomsbury Press edition of Blood Brothers published in 1995.
Act 1 Quotes

MRS. JOHNSTONE: Oh God, Mrs. Lyons, never put new shoes on a table…You never know what’ll happen.
MRS. LYONS: Oh…you mean you’re superstitious?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: No, but you never put new shoes on a table.

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker), Mrs. Jennifer Lyons
Related Symbols: Shoes on the Table
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

As Mrs. Johnstone performs domestic tasks in Mrs. Lyons' home, she becomes distraught when her employer puts new shoes on a table--a terrible omen, Mrs. Johnstone believes. Her vehement reaction introduces the theme of superstition, which will become increasingly important as the narrative continues.

At first, as shown here, superstition is seemingly laughable and misguided. In fact, Mrs. Lyons will soon use Mrs. Johnstone's superstitiousness (which is implicitly associated with her class and level of education) to manipulate and fool her. By the end of the play, however, it will become clear that superstition in fact comes from a place of truth. The bad omens associated with the twins do in fact point to their deaths, starting with the seemingly silly "new shoes on a table." 

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In the name of Jesus, the thing was done,
Now there’s no going back, for anyone.
It’s too late now, for feeling torn
There’s a pact been sealed, there’s a deal been born.

How swiftly those who’ve made a pact,
Can come to overlook the fact.
Or wish the reckoning to be delayed
But a debt is a debt, and must be paid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mrs. Johnstone, Mrs. Jennifer Lyons
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

As the two mothers decide to deceive their sons, Mr. Lyons, and the whole world, the Narrator ominously announces that they can never go back on their word. He reminds the women (though of course they cannot hear him) that regret is useless--an impossible truth, of course, for Mrs. Johnstone, who has just given up all claim to one of her sons. 

Even more foreboding than the idea of regret, though, is the Narrator's mention of "a debt" that "must be paid." By agreeing to such a massive deception, Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Lyons have (the Narrator suggests) committed a grave and unforgivable sin. Eventually, they will pay for their crimes, however long they may delay "the reckoning" of which the Narrator warns. 

Only mine until
The time comes round
To pay the bill.
Then, I’m afraid,
What can’t be paid
Must be returned.
You never, ever learn,
That nothing’s yours,
On easy terms.

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Grieving the loss of her son despite having agreed to it, Mrs. Johnstone looks back on the many debts that she's paid in her life. This song brings up another vital issue behind the idea of a debt: that of class and money. Over and over again, the play hammers home the difficulty of life in poverty. For Mrs. Johnstone, of course, this is the only life that she has ever known. She understands all too well the concept of debt, and the fact that nothing in this life is really yours.

Despite her resignation, however, Mrs. Johnstone still longs for all that she can't have--especially her infant son. No matter how many times she's told that "[w]hat can't be paid/ Must be returned," she "never, ever learn[s]" to accept that she will never have the life she really wants. 

MRS. LYONS: You do know what they say about twins, secretly parted, don’t you?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: What? What?
MRS. LYONS: They say…they say that if either twin learns that he once was a pair, that they shall both immediately die. It means, Mrs. Johnstone, that these brothers shall grow up, unaware of the other’s 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 kill them.

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker), Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker), Mickey, Edward
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Terrified that her son will love his biological mother more than he loves her, Mrs. Lyons lies to Mrs. Johnstone in this passage, playing on her superstitions and ignorance. Mrs. Lyons, of course, knows that the saying she has made up about "twins secretly parted" is false. What she does not know, however, is that by creating this false superstition, she has actually set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy.

By consistently acting out of selfishness, fear, and paranoia, Mrs. Lyons makes her own worst fears come true. Not only does she lose her son's love, but he eventually loses his life. This tragic truth illustrates how easily lies can in fact become realities. Whether or not Mrs. Lyons believes her own words doesn't matter; what does matter is that words have power, and her false prophecy can all too easily become true. 

You’re always gonna know what was done
Even when you shut your eyes you still see
That you sold a son
And you can’t tell anyone.
But y’know the devil’s got your number,
Y’know he’s gonna find y’,
Y’know he’s right behind y’,

Yes, y’know the devil’s got your number

And he’s knocking at your door.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mrs. Johnstone
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

As Mrs. Johnstone grapples with her conscience, the Narrator takes on the voice of her guilt, reminding her that no matter what she does, she will always have to carry her terrible secret and shame. 

Even more disturbing than Mrs. Johnstone's guilt, though, is the metaphorical "devil" that the Narrator conjures up, repeatedly telling Mrs. Johnstone that this "devil" is going to "find" her, no matter what she does.

The "devil" represents not just guilt, but Mrs. Johnstone's sin, and the terrible fate that is coming for her and her son. No matter how much she internally punishes herself for the crime she's committed, her guilt will never be as awful as the terrible doom that awaits her family. 

Act 2 Quotes

MRS. LYONS: Afraid he might eventually have forgotten you? Oh no. There’s no chance of that. He’ll always remember you. After we’d moved he talked less and less of you and your family. I started…just for a while I came to believe that he was actually mine.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: He is yours.
MRS. LYONS: No. I took him. But I never made him mine. Does he know? Have you told…
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Of course not!
MRS. LYONS: Even when—when he was a tiny baby I’d see him looking straight at me and I’d think, he knows…he knows. You have ruined me. But you won’t ruin Edward!

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker), Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker), Edward
Page Number: 77-78
Explanation and Analysis:

Meeting again after years and years, the two mothers have a confrontation: Mrs. Johnstone is confused and placating, while Mrs. Lyons is aggressive and accusatory. By now, her paranoia has morphed into a raging delusion. She is convinced that Eddie will never be her true son, and that Mrs. Johnstone has somehow kept a hold on him despite the physical and temporal distance that Mrs. Lyons has placed between them. 

This conversation exemplifies the different ways that guilt affects these two women. Mrs. Johnstone has tried to put her sin out of her mind, and to focus instead on the family still with her. Mrs. Lyons, in contrast, has become obsessive and unstable, convinced that she will be punished for what she's done. She believes that she must protect her son from the obsession that has ruined her, unaware that her actions will actually lead to his death. 

MRS. JOHNSTONE: YOU’RE MAD. MAD.
MRS. LYONS: I curse the day I met you. You ruined me.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go. Just go!
MRS. LYONS: Witch. I curse you. Witch!
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go!

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker), Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker)
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Becoming increasingly hysterical, Mrs. Lyons grows convinced that Mrs. Johnstone has ruined her life and her happiness. In revenge, she curses Mrs. Johnstone, calling her a "witch," and even attempting to hurt her.

In a complete reversal, Mrs. Lyons, once so skeptical of superstitious beliefs, now believes that Mrs. Johnstone has supernatural powers, and even attempts a curse of her own. Her deception--both of her own son, and of Mrs. Johnstone--has eaten her alive. She's become consumed by guilt, fear, and paranoia, and has no grasp on reality left. 

Even in this horrifying moment, however, Mrs. Johnstone remains nonviolent. She does not attack the crazed Mrs. Lyons, but only attempts to defend herself. 

MRS. JOHNSTONE: Mickey. Don’t shoot Eddie. He’s your brother. You had a twin brother. I couldn’t afford to keep both of you. His mother couldn’t have kids. I agreed to give one of you away!
MICKEY: You. You! Why didn’t you give me away? I could have been…I could have been him!

Related Characters: Mrs. Johnstone (speaker), Mickey (speaker), Edward
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

In an attempt to save Eddie's life, Mrs. Johnstone at last confesses her sin to Mickey, telling him that he and Eddie are actually brothers. Her words, however, have the opposite effect that she intended. Rather than relenting, Mickey only becomes further enraged, believing that he could have had a completely different (and better) life, if only he'd been given away instead of Eddie. Long ago, the boys had longed to be like each other--it is only now, however, that Mickey realizes that he actually could have been Eddie. 

Throughout the play, Mickey has been feeling increasingly powerless and out of control. It is only now, however, that he realizes just how devoid of agency he actually is. Only by chance, he believes, has he ended up unemployed and addicted to antidepressants. Had fate gone a different way, he could have been a prosperous politician like Eddie. This idea drives him beyond sanity, and eventually leads him to shoot his own brother. 

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Mrs. Johnstone Character Timeline in Blood Brothers

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Johnstone appears in Blood Brothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
As Act One opens, Mrs. Johnstone laments in song, begging the narrator and audience to “tell me it’s not true.” The... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone , a thirty-year-old woman who looks far older than her years, sings about her deadbeat... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Narrator, now playing a Milkman, rushes in to demand that Mrs. Johnstone pay him for the milk she’s ordered. She tells him that she can’t pay now,... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The scene shifts, moving to the house of Mr. and Mrs. Lyons, where Mrs. Johnstone works as a cleaning lady. Mrs. Lyons enters with a parcel and greets Mrs. Johnstone,... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
...to spilling salt to breaking a mirror, creating a sense of foreboding for the audience. Mrs. Johnstone tries to reassure herself that she is not superstitious. (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Narrator reenters, this time playing the Gynecologist. He listens to Mrs. Johnstone’s fetus’ heartbeat, and she tells him that she thinks she’s figured out a way to... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
We return to Mrs. Lyons’ home, where the rich woman finds Mrs. Johnstone devastated by the idea of having two more children, even worrying that they will be... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone asks if Mrs. Lyons is really that desperate for a child. Mrs. Lyons responds in... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
As she begins to plan the deception, Mrs. Lyons has Mrs. Johnstone swear on a Bible never to tell anyone about the bargain. The two agree, and... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
The Narrator exits and the play moves to a hospital room, where Mrs. Johnstone has given birth to her two baby boys. As she returns home, a Catalogue Man... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Mrs. Lyons enters, wearing fake pregnancy padding, and is upset that Mrs. Johnstone hasn’t notified her about the twins’ birth. Mrs. Johnstone begs to keep them both for... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone’s children ask her what happened to the twin whom Mrs. Lyons just took. Mrs. Johnstone... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
A week later, Mrs. Johnstone returns to work at Mrs. Lyons’ house. She stops for a minute at her baby’s... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Mrs. Lyons calls for Mrs. Johnstone and announces to her that she is no longer doing satisfactory work. She tries to... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...enters and once again sings about all the various omens of bad luck. He tells Mrs. Johnstone that “the devil’s got your number,” and that eventually, he’s going to find her and... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
The play moves seven years into the future, as the son whom Mrs. Johnstone kept, Mickey, knocks on his mother’s door while carrying a toy gun. His mother comes... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone emerges from her house, and Mickey introduces Edward as his “brother.” Mrs. Johnstone hears Edward’s... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
As Edward leaves, Mrs. Johnstone sings a lament that her son will never recognize her. (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
The policeman confronts Mrs. Johnstone , telling her that she and her children will get no more warnings—if Sammy or... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Edward leaves his house and goes to the Johnstones’, where Mrs. Johnstone answers the door. She asks him if his mother looks after him, and he responds... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone appears clutching a letter, ecstatic. Donna Marie and Sammy enter, as do the Johnstones’ neighbors,... (full context)
Act 2
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Seven years have passed. Mrs. Johnstone sings about her lovely new house. She pays her milk bill on time, and the... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone enters, hurrying Mickey off to school, and telling him that she’s been hearing him talk... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
...conductor—played by the Narrator—tells the teenagers to get on the bus, but then turns to Mrs. Johnstone . He asks if she’s happy, and whether she’s forgotten the past. He reminds her... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
...Teasingly, she opens it up, but is appalled to find the picture of Mickey and Mrs. Johnstone within it. She questions Edward about where he got it, but he responds that it’s... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
...Mrs. Lyons). Edward offers to lend Mickey money, but Mickey says that he will ask Mrs. Johnstone for some. Edward says that they need to move quickly, before his unstable mother sees... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mickey and Edward burst into Mrs. Johnstone’s kitchen, with Mickey thrilled to reintroduce his mother to his old friend. Mrs. Johnstone is... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
With the boys gone, Mrs. Lyons emerges to confront Mrs. Johnstone , demanding to know how long the family has lived in the area. Becoming increasingly... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
As Mickey prepares to go to work, Mrs. Johnstone enters with his lunch. The Narrator enters briefly, explaining that it is a cold day... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
As the policemen place Mickey in a cell, Mrs. Johnstone sings about what happens next: the jury sentences Mickey to seven years in prison, and... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone continues to sing as Mickey comes home. She notes that her son feels fifteen years... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Linda enters holding shopping bags, and approaches Mrs. Johnstone . The two women discuss what to do about Mickey, who is still addicted to... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
...who longs for the past. Making a decision, Linda calls Edward. As she does so, Mrs. Johnstone enters, singing that the two (Edward and Linda) don’t mean to be cruel, and that... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnstone continues singing, as we see Mickey deciding not to take his pills anymore, and Linda... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Out of nowhere, Mrs. Lyons enters. She shows Mickey Edward and Linda together, as Mrs. Johnstone ominously sings about “the price you’re gonna have to pay.” Enraged, Mickey pounds on his... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Mickey roams the streets looking for the couple, as Mrs. Johnstone chases him. The Narrator tells the audience that a man has “gone mad in the... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...at everything, even at shooting Edward—he doesn’t even know if his gun is loaded. Suddenly Mrs. Johnstone enters the building, much to the dismay of the policemen. She begs Mickey not to... (full context)
Class and Money Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
The Power of the Past Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...the story of the Johnstone twins, separated at birth, who died on the same day. Mrs. Johnstone begs to be told that her sons’ deaths are just a story, that it’s “just... (full context)