Blood Brothers

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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.
Coming of Age Theme Icon

The musical Blood Brothers deals with many dark and complex issues. One of the lighter but equally important themes within it, however, is that of coming of age. Although the play ends with the twins Mickey and Edward’s deaths, most of the musical is occupied with their lives and the events of their growing up. We see them evolve from infants, to boys, to teenagers, to young men, and at each point playwright Willy Russell makes sure to show us the unique difficulties and preoccupations of that stage of life. Songs such as “Kids’ Game,” for instance, depict children of elementary-school age playing together, and illuminate the complex and shifting social ties that they share. As the boys grow up, the music becomes more mature, moving onto songs such as “That Guy,” which articulates the unique brand of self-confidence and self-loathing that comes with being an adolescent.

As the brothers become young men, the play shifts once again, and begins to focus on the anxieties and difficulties of adulthood. The same characters that audiences and readers saw as children and teenagers now struggle with the trials of daily life as an adult. For Mickey, this means trying to be a husband and a father when he’s been laid off, and then struggling to become a healthy, whole person again after being imprisoned and becoming addicted to antidepressants. For Edward, this means dealing with his feelings for his best friend’s wife. In both cases, the men fail: Edward begins an affair with Linda, while Mickey becomes crazed and kills Edward with a gun. That we have seen these characters’ entire lives up until this point, however, makes us understand clearly how they ended up in these situations, making their eventual dooms even more tragic.

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Coming of Age ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Blood Brothers related to the theme of Coming of Age.
Act 1 Quotes

MICKEY: What’s your birthday?
EDWARD: July the eighteenth.
MICKEY: So is mine.
EDWARD: Is it really?
MICKEY: Ey, we were born on the same day…that means we can be blood brothers. Do you wanna be my blood brother, Eddie?
EDWARD: Yes, please.

Related Characters: Mickey (speaker), Edward (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

As innocent though rambunctious children, Mickey and Eddie meet and immediately bond. Although Mickey is the less educated of the two, he is seemingly the more insightful. Though the idea of "blood brothers" is only a superstition, in the case of Mickey and Eddie it has a deeper meaning, one of which neither boy has any awareness. 

Also palpable in this exchange is the innocence shared by the two boys. They are too young to really understand about money and class, let alone violence or fate. Although they feel a mysterious kinship, they don't know enough to question it. Instead, they decide easily and simply to be "blood brothers," completely devoted to each other even though they have no idea of the complex web of lies that surrounds their uncomplicated friendship. 


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But you know that if you 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.

Related Characters: Linda (speaker)
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Along with Eddie, the neighborhood children play a game that involves battling with toy guns. Going over the rules, they explain that once you're shot in the game, you can simply "cross your fingers," count to ten, and get up once again.

To the children, death is nothing more than lying down on the ground and then standing back up on your feet. They don't understand the actual implications of guns, violence, or their own mortality. 

Of course, the game the children play is also a terrible foreshadowing of what is to come (and it introduces the recurring the symbol of guns). For audiences, who understand that both the Johnstone twins are doomed to a violent death, these games have a terrible element of dramatic irony. 

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

MRS. LYONS: Where did you get that…locket from, Edward? Why do you wear it?
EDWARD: I can’t tell you that, Ma. I’ve explained, it’s a secret. I can’t tell you.
MRS. LYONS: But…but I’m your mother.
EDWARD: I know, but I still can’t tell you. It’s not important, I’m going up to my room. It’s just a secret, everybody has secrets, don’t you have secrets?

Related Characters: Edward (speaker), Mrs. Jennifer Lyons (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Having received a locket as a gift from Mrs. Johnstone, Eddie refuses to tell his mother how he came by it, knowing that she will be furious (but not understanding why). Once again, Mrs. Lyons shows her paranoia and her utter lack of understanding of her son. As children grow up, they naturally begin to keep secrets. Mrs. Lyons, though, views this as a sign of insolence and insubordination, and becomes even more convinced that her son is pulling away from her.

Also notable is Eddie's question to his mother: "[D]on't you have secrets?" Of course, as readers/audience members, we know that Mrs. Lyons is keeping a massive secret from her son. Eddie, however, still innocent despite his newfound independence, is entirely unaware of the dark and convoluted history of his own origins. 

What…Linda…Linda…Don’t…Linda, I wanna kiss y’, an’ put me arms around y’ an’ kiss y’ and kiss y’ an even fornicate with y’ but I don’t know how to tell y’ because I’ve got pimples an’ me feet are too big an’ me bum sticks out an’…

Related Characters: Mickey (speaker), Linda
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Frustrated and tongue-tied, Mickey has no idea how to tell Linda how he feels, so he instead rants to an empty stage about his feelings for her. In an often-dark musical, this moment is a relieving bit of lightheartedness. It's important to remember that this musical is not simply about sins, fate, and poverty--it is also about three young people growing up, and the strong bonds that they share.

By showing us Mickey's awkward adolescence, the play also makes us feel more connected and sympathetic towards him. Considering that we know that he is doomed, this technique is a tragic one, making us care deeply for a character who will inevitably die at the end of the play. 

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. 

And who’d dare tell the lambs in Spring,
What fate the later seasons bring.
Who’d tell the girl in the middle of the pair
The price she’ll pay just for being there.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mickey, Edward, Linda
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

As the play depicts the idyllic adolescence of Linda, Mickey, and Edward, the Narrator returns to ruin the perfect picture, reminding the audience/readers that the happiness we are witnessing will soon turn to sorrow. He also adds a new element to the complicated web, informing us that Linda will play an unknowing and unwilling part in the terrible fate that is yet to come.

This passage also has a somber message about coming of age. Linda, Mickey, and Edward aren't just innocent about their fate--they are innocent about the world, and the terrible way that it will rip them apart because of class and money. Their lack of knowledge about their doom becomes a metaphor for their broader ignorance about how difficult life can be. 

EDWARD: If I was him, if I was him
That’s what I’d do.
But I’m not saying a word
I’m not saying I care
Though I would like you to know
That I’ not saying a word
I’m not saying I care
Though I would like you to know.
But I’m not.
LINDA: What?
EDWARD: Mickey.

Related Characters: Edward (speaker), Linda (speaker), Mickey
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

As Mickey, Eddie, and Linda get older, the seeds of discord begin to spring up: although Mickey and Linda are childhood friends, and clearly compatible in terms of their class, Eddie is also in love with Linda. In this song, he tells her of his feelings, but disguises them by saying that he would only express them if he were Mickey. The situation has grown increasingly complex, an unfortunate fact of growing up together.

It is also notable that Mickey and Eddie, despite having been raised in vastly different circumstances, are in love with the same woman. They may have different levels of money, education, and stature, but at their core, they are still intensely similar: proof that no matter how different the boys' nurture was, their inborn natures remain an important part of their character. 

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.