On some level, the lives of Mickey and Edward seem almost like a science experiment: what will happen when two genetically similar boys are raised in vastly different circumstances? Is a person’s character determined more by their genetics, or by their upbringing? Throughout the play, Willy Russell illuminates the contrasts that stem from Mickey and Edward’s separate childhoods, and compares them with the similarities that the two share. Mickey, for instance, is rough, rebellious, and jaded from a young age. In contrast, Edward is intelligent but innocent, which is made clear by his generosity towards other children and his tendency to get himself in trouble by accident. The differences between the two boys are rooted in the fact that Mickey grew up in a rough and tumble neighborhood, while Edward came of age in the lap of luxury.
At the same time, however, the boys feel a kinship with each other, calling themselves “blood brothers” years before they know they are in fact related. Although they have many superficial differences, at core they are both loving, decent, and honest individuals, much like their mother, Mrs. Johnstone. Their similarities are further emphasized by the fact that they fall in love with the same woman, Linda, and she feels strongly about both of them. Tragically, it is ultimately this similarity that ultimately leads to their joint downfall. Russell never comes down on one side or the other in the “nature vs. nurture” argument, but instead shows how both genetics and upbringing affect one’s personality and fate.
Nature vs. Nurture ThemeTracker
Nature vs. Nurture Quotes in Blood Brothers
So did y’hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
As like each other as two new pins,
Of one womb born, on the self same day,
How one was kept and one given away?
An’ did you never hear how the Johnstones died,
Never knowing that they shared one name,
Till the day they died…?
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.
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.
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’t..you won’t ever…Oh my son…my beautiful, beautiful son.
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.
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?
EDWARD: I wish I was a bit like
Wish that I could score a hit like
And be just a little bit like
MICKEY: I wish that I could be like
Just a little less like me
Like the sort of guy I see, like
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
And do we blame superstition for what came to pass?
Or could it be what we, the English, have come to know as class?