Blood Brothers

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Class and Money Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Blood Brothers, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Class and Money Theme Icon

Throughout the musical Blood Brothers, the theme of class and money plays a dominant role, controlling characters’ actions and determining their lives. This pattern begins when Mrs. Johnstone makes the fateful decision to give away one of her twin boys to her employer Mrs. Lyons. She does so not because she doesn’t want two babies, but because she simply can’t afford two extra mouths to feed. Thus the action that sets the entire narrative in motion in fact stems from the forces of class and money. The all-powerful nature of these ideas is then evident throughout the rest of the narrative as well, as Mickey and Edward’s lives diverge drastically due to their differing financial circumstances. Although linked by genetics and similar in temperament, the unknowing twin brothers have vastly contrasting lives. While Mickey spirals further and further into drugs, depression, and crime because of his poverty, Edward finds doors opened for him at every turn due to his wealth.

Although playwright Willy Russell takes care to emphasize that class and money are nearly unstoppable forces, he also makes sure to show all of the ways that they can be overcome. For example, the poor Mrs. Johnstone is a loving, caring, and grounded individual, while in contrast, the wealthy Mrs. Lyons is neurotic, unstable, and (eventually) evil. Mrs. Lyons may be upper-class and cultured, but it’s Mrs. Johnstone who becomes the moral center of the play. Similarly the kinship among Edward, Mickey, and Linda shows how people can overcome the barriers of class. Although Mickey and Linda are poor and ignorant compared to the refined Edward, the three share a tight bond. In the end, however, their relationships are eventually torn apart by money and class—the same forces that they seemed to overcome. Ultimately Russell shows the cost of the economic realities of his society, and the terrible toll they take on individuals’ lives.

Class and Money ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Class and Money appears in each act of Blood Brothers. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Class and Money Quotes in Blood Brothers

Below you will find the important quotes in Blood Brothers related to the theme of Class and Money.
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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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. 

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. 

You see, you see why I don’t want you mixing with boys like that! You learn filth from them and behave like this like a, like a horrible little boy, like them. But you are not like them. You are my son, mine, and you won’ won’t ever…Oh my son…my beautiful, beautiful son.

Related Characters: Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker), Edward
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Already, Mrs. Lyons has become paranoid and suffocating. Her snobbishness has morphed into full-blown class hatred as she strives to keep her son away from his brother and his biological mother. She repeats "you are not like them" in order to remind both herself and her son that they are different than the Johnstones (even though Eddie is, in fact, a Johnstone by blood).

Mrs. Lyons' repetition of "You are my son" only further emphasizes her possessive and paranoid nature. She is desperate to reassure herself that she owns Eddie and that he will never be taken from her. What Mrs. Lyons does not understand, though, is that her own actions will eventually alienate her from her son, as she becomes increasingly dictatorial, prejudiced, and unstable. 

MRS. LYONS:…If we stay here I feel that something terrible will happen, something bad.
MR. LYONS: Look, Jen. What is this thing you keep talking about getting away from? Mm?
MRS. LYONS: It’s just…it’s these people…these people that Edward has started mixing with. Can’t you see how he’s drawn to them? They’re…they’re drawing him away from me.

Related Characters: Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker), Mr. Richard Lyons (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Deeply distraught that her son has met his (unknown) brother, Mrs. Lyons begs her detached husband to move the family away. She claims that she wants to remove her son from the bad element in the neighborhood, when really she only wants to separate him from Mickey and Mrs. Johnstone. 

Already paranoid, Mrs. Lyons cannot understand that her son is simply growing up, making friends, and moving outside his comfort zone. Instead, she views every sign of his coming of age as proof that he is being "draw[n] away from [her]" by Mickey.

Along with Mrs. Lyons' fear comes a degree of snobbishness and pride. She hates Mickey not only because he represents Eddie's true family, but because she views him as low class and inferior. 

Act 2 Quotes

Happy, are y’. Content at last?
Wiped out what happened, forgotten the past?
But you’ve got to have an endin’, if a start’s been made.
No one gets off without the price bein’ paid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

The Johnstones rejoice as they get to move to their new home out in the country. Mrs. Johnstone is especially jubilant, convinced that this change will allow her to leave behind her troubled and secretive past. Even in the midst of their happiness, though, the Narrator reappears with threatening news: he reminds Mrs. Johnstone--and the audience--that she can never truly escape the sins that she has committed.

Particularly ominous is the Narrator's talk of an "endin'." Since we already know that the play will conclude with the twins' deaths, the audience is clear on exactly how terrible the "endin'" that the Narrator references will be. By also referencing the "start," he reminds us that the twins' awful demise will only occur because of the original crime committed by their mothers. 

EDWARD: I wish I was a bit like
Wish that I could score a hit like
And be just a little bit like
That guy
MICKEY: I wish that I could be like
Just a little less like me
Like the sort of guy I see, like
That guy
That guy.

Related Characters: Mickey (speaker), Edward (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Not realizing that each is viewing his childhood friend (and secret brother), Mickey and Edward watch and envy each other from a distance here. Having been brought up in different circumstances, they have become vastly different people--yet despite this long time apart, they still feel a connection, and each wishes to be more like the other. 

It is also significant that Edward and Mickey use so many of the same words and expressions to describe each other. Although one is posh and the other poor, they are still two halves of the same whole, and use similar language to express themselves. 

Beyond the brothers' connection with each other, the play is also taking another opportunity to emphasize the awkwardness and comedy of coming of age. 

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. 

Take a letter, Miss Jones,
Due to the world situation
The shrinking pound, the global slump
And the price of oil
I’m afraid we must fire you,
We no longer require you,
It’s just another
Sign of the times,
Miss Jones,
A most miserable sign of the times.

Related Characters: Managing Director (speaker), Mickey, Miss Jones
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

The Managing Director of a factory has his secretary, Miss Jones, fire many of his employees, including Mickey. This event will cause a downward spiral in Mickey's life, leading him to end up in jail and addicted to antidepressants.

The Managing Director, however, does not care about the consequences of his actions. Although he may call what he has to do a "miserable sign of the times," he has no real empathy for his workers, nor does he particularly care about firing them. Instead, the Managing Director is a personification of a cruel and difficult economy that seemed to have no mercy whatsoever for the workers whose lives it ruined.

This song reflects the play's anguished attitude towards money and class, which ultimately prove just as damaging and fatal as the forces of superstition and fate. 

EDWARD: I thought, I thought we always stuck together. I thought we were…blood brothers.
MICKEY: That was kids’ stuff, Eddie. Didn’t anyone tell y’? But I suppose you still are a kid, aren’t y’?
EDWARD: I’m exactly the same age as you, Mickey.
MICKEY: Yeh. But you’re still a kid. An’ I wish I could be as well Eddie, I wish I could still believe in all that blood brother stuff. But I can’t, because while no one was looking I grew up. An’ you didn’t, because you didn’t need to; an’ I don’t blame y’ for it Eddie. In your shoes I’d be the same, I’d still be able to be a kid. But I’m not in your shoes, I’m in these, lookin’ at you. An’ you make me sick, right? That was all just kids’ stuff, Eddie, an’ I don’t want to be reminded of it. Right? So just, just take yourself away. Go an’ see your friends an’ celebrate with them.

Related Characters: Mickey (speaker), Edward (speaker)
Page Number: 92-93
Explanation and Analysis:

Eddie and Mickey have now grown up; Eddie is in college, and Mickey has already been laid off from his factory job. While Eddie remains young and carefree, eager to celebrate and spend time with Mickey, Mickey has become increasingly jealous and resentful. He wishes that he'd possessed the advantages that Eddie did, and believes that he has been ruined by his circumstances. It is this resentment, in fact, that will also lead to the fatal confrontation between Eddie and Mickey. Although bonded together for years by their shared natures, their vastly different upbringings are now tearing them apart.

It is vital to understand that Mickey and Eddie have been separated solely because of their economic differences. A rich and privileged boy, Eddie is allowed to escape responsibility and to continue life as a carefree youth. Poor and lower class, Mickey has no recourse but to attempt to find another job. The forces of class and money are so strong, in fact, that they can even pull apart two brothers so close that even being separated at birth did not stop them from finding each other. 

I didn’t sort anythin’ out Linda. Not a job, not a house, nothin’. It used to be just sweets an’ ciggies he gave me, because I had none of me own. Now it’s a job and a house. I’m not stupid, Linda. You sorted it out. You an’ Councilor Eddie Lyons.

Related Characters: Mickey (speaker), Edward, Linda
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Now embittered and cynical, Mickey furiously confronts Linda, convinced that she has conspired with Eddie to get their family a house, and to get him a job. During his years of unemployment and prison, Mickey's jealousy towards Eddie has soured into hatred. Irrationally, he refuses to accept any help from his former best friend, despite their previous closeness and Eddie's honest desire to help.

Also at play here are Mickey's feelings of insufficiency and shame. He knows and hates that he cannot support his family and Linda, and also instinctively senses that Eddie is in love with Linda. His jealousy, combined with his self-hatred, harden into an utter lack of reason or kindness. He accuses his wife and berates her, despite the fact that she is only doing what she believes to be best for her husband and her family, eventually driving her away completely. 

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. 

And do we blame superstition for what came to pass?
Or could it be what we, the English, have come to know as class?

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mickey, Edward
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

As the twins lie dead before a distraught Mrs. Johnstone, the Narrator enters to sum up what has occurred. Throughout the whole play, he has blamed fate and superstition for the doom that the twins are facing. Now, however, he hammers home the true message of the play: that an unjust and merciless class system has caused the tragedy that we have witnessed. 

It is easy, the narrator implies, to blame superstition and fate--things out of our control--for the injustices that take place in the world. Instead, he asserts, it is the stratified English class system that is to blame, and (more broadly) a pitiless society that doesn't help those who are down and out, like Mickey, and favors those who are wealthy and prosperous, like Eddie. No world in which two such similar people could go on to lead such different lives, he seems to tell us, could ever be fair--especially when it is this very disparity that led to a senseless and brutal tragedy.