A Taste of Honey

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of A Taste of Honey published in 1956.
Act 1: Scene 1 Quotes

HELEN: When I find somewhere for us to live I have to consider something far more important than your feelings . . . the rent. It’s all I can afford.

JO: You can afford something better than this old ruin.

HELEN: When you start earning you can start moaning.

JO: Can’t be soon enough for me. I’m old and my shoes let water . . . what a place. . . and we’re supposed to be living off her immoral earnings.

HELEN: I’m careful. Anyway, what’s wrong with this place? Everything in it’s falling apart, it’s true, and we’ve no heating—but there’s a lovely view of the gasworks, we share a bathroom with the community and this wallpaper’s contemporary. What more do you want? Anyway it’ll do for us.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
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JO: I’m going to unpack my bulbs. I wonder where I can put them.

HELEN: I could tell you.

JO: They’re supposed to be left in a cool, dark place.

HELEN: That’s where we all end up sooner or later. Still, it’s no use worrying, is it?

JO: I hope they bloom. Always before when I’ve tried to fix up a window box nothing’s ever grown in it.

HELEN: Why do you bother?

JO: It’s nice to see a few flowers, isn’t it?

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Jo’s Flower Bulbs
Page Number: 11
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JO: See yourself. I’ve got to find somewhere for my bulbs.

HELEN: See yourself! Do everything yourself. That’s what happens. You bring’em up and they turn round and talk to you like that. I would never have dared talk to my mother like that when I was her age. She’d have knocked me into the middle of next week. Oh! my head. Whenever I walk, you know how it is! What a journey! I never realized this city was so big. Have we got any aspirins left, Jo?

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Jo’s Flower Bulbs
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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JO: Anyway I’m not getting married like you did.

HELEN: Oh!

JO: I’m too young and beautiful for that.

HELEN: Listen to it! Still, we all have funny ideas at that age, don’t we—makes no difference though, we all end up same way sooner or later.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 13
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HELEN: […] Have you ever thought of going to a proper art school and getting a proper training?

JO: It’s too late.

HELEN: I’ll pay. You’re not stupid. You’ll soon learn.

JO: I’ve had enough of school. Too many different schools and too many different places.

HELEN: You’re wasting yourself.

JO: So long as I don’t waste anybody else. Why are you so suddenly interested in me, anyway? You’ve never cared much before about what I was doing or what I was trying to do or the difference between them.

HELEN: I know, I’m a cruel, wicked woman.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Page Number: 15
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PETER: Is she always like this?

HELEN: She’s jealous . . .

PETER: That’s something I didn’t bargain for.

HELEN: Can’t bear to see me being affectionate with anybody.

JO: You’ve certainly never been affectionate with me.

PETER: Still, she’s old enough to take care of herself.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith (speaker)
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 1: Scene 2 Quotes

HELEN: […] There’s two w’s in your future. Work or want, and no Arabian Knight can tell you different. We’re all at the steering wheel of our own destiny. Careering along like drunken drivers. I’m going to get married. [The news is received in silence.] I said, I’m going to get married.

JO: Yes, I heard you the first time. What do you want me to do, laugh and throw pennies?

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 29
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HELEN: There’s plenty of food in the kitchen.

JO: You should prepare my meals like a proper mother.

HELEN: Have I ever laid claim to being a proper mother? If you’re too idle to cook your own meals you’ll just have to cut food out of your diet altogether. That should help you lose a bit of weight, if nothing else.

PETER: She already looks like a bad case of malnutrition.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
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HELEN: You stupid little devil! What sort of a wife do you think you’d make? You’re useless. It takes you all your time to look after yourself. I suppose you think you’re in love. Anybody can fall in love, do you know that? But what do you know about the rest of it?

JO: Ask yourself.

HELEN: You know where that ring should be? In the ashcan with everything else. Oh! I could kill her, I could really.

JO: You don’t half knock me about. I hope you suffer for it.

HELEN: I’ve done my share of suffering if I never do any more. Oh Jo, you're only a kid. Why don’t you learn from my mistakes? It takes half your life to learn from your own.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith, Jimmie (“The Boy”)
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
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HELEN: I don’t suppose you’re sorry to see me go.

JO: I’m not sorry and I’m not glad.

HELEN: You don’t know what you do want.

JO: Yes, I do. I’ve always known what I want.

HELEN: And when it comes your way will you recognize it?

JO: Good luck, Helen.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2: Scene 1 Quotes

JO: Look, I’ve got a nice comfortable couch, I’ve even got some sheets. You can stay here if you’ll tell me what you do. Go on, I’ve always wanted to know about people like you.

GEOF: Go to hell.

JO: I won’t snigger, honest I won’t. Tell me some of it, go on. I bet you never told a woman before.

GEOF: I don’t go in for sensational confessions.

JO: I want to know what you do. I want to know why you do it. Tell me or get out.

GEOF: Right! [He goes to the door.]

JO: Geof, don’t go. Don’t go, Geof! I’m sorry. Please stay.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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GEOF: Has anybody ever tried?

JO: What?

GEOF: Taking you in hand.

JO: Yes.

GEOF: What happened to him?

JO: He came in with Christmas and went out with the New Year.

GEOF: Did you like him?

JO: He was all right . . .

GEOF: Did you love him?

JO: I don’t know much about love. I’ve never been too familiar with it. I suppose I must have loved him. They say love creates. And I’m certainly creating at the moment. I’m going to have a baby.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram (speaker), Jimmie (“The Boy”)
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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JO: This place stinks. [Goes over to the door. Children are heard singing in the street.] That river, it’s the colour of lead. Look at that washing, it’s dirty, and look at those filthy children.

GEOF: It’s not their fault.

JO: It’s their parents’ fault. There’s a little boy over there and his hair, honestly, it’s walking away. And his ears. Oh! He’s a real mess! He never goes to school. He just sits on that front doorstep all day. I think he’s a bit deficient.

[The children’s voices die away. A tugboat hoots.]

His mother ought not to be allowed.

GEOF: Who?

JO: His mother. Think of all the harm she does having children.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 54
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HELEN: Well, come on, let’s have a look at you. [JO turns away.] What’s up? We’re all made the same, aren’t we?

JO: Yes we are.

HELEN: Well then. Can you cut the bread on it yet? [JO turns.] Yes, you’re carrying it a bit high, aren’t you? Are you going to the clinic regularly? Is she working?

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram
Page Number: 61
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HELEN: You couldn’t wait, could you? Now look at the mess you’ve landed yourself in.

JO: I’ll get out of it, without your help.

HELEN: You had to throw yourself at the first man you met, didn’t you?

JO: Yes, I did, that’s right.

HELEN: You’re man mad.

JO: I’m like you.

HELEN: You know what they’re calling you round here? A silly little whore!

JO: Well, they all know where I get it from too.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
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JO: It’s taken you a long time to come round to this, hasn’t it?

HELEN: What?

JO: The famous mother-love act.

HELEN: I haven’t been able to sleep for thinking about you since he came round to our house.

JO: And your sleep mustn’t be disturbed at any cost.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2: Scene 2 Quotes

JO: You know, some people like to take out an insurance policy, don’t they?

GEOF: I’m a bit young for you to take out one on me.

JO: No. You know, they like to pray to the Almighty just in case he turns out to exist when they snuff it.

GEOF [brushing under the sofa]: Well, I never think about it. You come, you go. It’s simple.

JO: It’s not, it’s chaotic—a bit of love, a bit of lust and there you are. We don’t ask for life, we have it thrust upon us.

GEOF: What’s frightened you? Have you been reading the newspapers?

JO: No, I never do. Hold my hand, Geof.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Jo’s Flower Bulbs
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
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JO: You’ve got nice hands, hard. You know I used to try and hold my mother’s hands, but she always used to pull them away from me. So silly really. She had so much love for everyone else, but none for me.

GEOF: If you don’t watch it, you’ll turn out exactly like her.

JO: I’m not like her at all.

GEOF: In some ways you are already, you know.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram (speaker)
Page Number: 71-72
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GEOF: That doesn’t mean to say it’s the truth. Do people ever tell the truth about themselves?

JO: Why should she want to spin me a yarn like that?

GEOF: She likes to make an effect.

JO: Like me?

GEOF: You said it. You only have to let your hair grow for a week for Helen to think you’re a cretin.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 73
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HELEN: What an arty little freak! I wasn’t rude to him. I never said a word. I never opened my mouth.

JO: Look, he’s the only friend I’ve got, as a matter of fact.

HELEN: Jo! I thought you could find yourself something more like a man.

JO: Why were you so nasty to him?

HELEN: I wasn’t nasty to him. Besides, I couldn’t talk to you in front of him, could I? Hey, wait till you see these things for the baby.

JO: You hurt people’s feelings and you don’t even notice.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Geoffrey Ingram
Page Number: 79
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JO: So we’re back where we started. And all those months you stayed away from me because of him! Just like when I was small.

HELEN: I never thought about you! It’s a funny thing, I never have done when I’ve been happy. But these last few weeks I’ve known I should be with you.

JO: So you stayed away.

HELEN: Yes. I can’t stand trouble.

JO: Oh, there’s no trouble. I’ve been performing a perfectly normal, healthy function. We’re wonderful! Do you know, for the first time in my life I feel really important. I feel as though I could take care of the whole world. I even feel as though I could take care of you, too!

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Helen (speaker), Peter Smith, Geoffrey Ingram
Related Symbols: Engagement Rings
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
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