Blood Brothers

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Shoes on the Table Symbol Analysis

Shoes on the Table Symbol Icon

Near the beginning of the musical, Mrs. Johnstone reacts with violent fear when she sees shoes on the table—something commonly thought to mean bad luck. Mrs. Lyons then uses Mrs. Johnstone’s superstition to convince her to keep her sons separate and in the dark about their relationship. Throughout the play, the Narrator continually emerges and warns the characters that the “shoes are on the table,” along with various other symbols of bad luck (such as a cracked mirror, etc.). These symbols remind the characters of the bad luck that they have brought about themselves, and also remind the audience of the terrible finale that lies ahead. At the end of the musical, however, the Narrator tells the audience that it was the class system, rather than bad luck or superstition, which doomed the two brothers.

Shoes on the Table Quotes in Blood Brothers

The Blood Brothers quotes below all refer to the symbol of Shoes on the Table. 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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Shoes on the Table Symbol Timeline in Blood Brothers

The timeline below shows where the symbol Shoes on the Table appears in Blood Brothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Class and Money Theme Icon
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
...new shoes—on the table. Mrs. Johnstone immediately reacts with alarm. Deeply superstitious, she believes that shoes on the table mean bad luck. Mrs. Lyons is amused, but agrees to put the shoes away. Then... (full context)
Superstition and Fate Theme Icon
After Mrs. Lyons leaves, the Narrator enters. He lists various superstitions, from shoes on the table to spilling salt to breaking a mirror, creating a sense of foreboding for the audience.... (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
...me.” As Mr. Lyons tries to placate her, he picks up a pair of Edward’s shoes and places them on the table . Mrs. Lyons reacts with fright, sweeping the shoes off the table. As she does... (full context)