In the apartment, Jo, Helen, and Geof occasionally hear children singing in the street. These playful melodies serve as a reminder of the innocence of childhood, in stark contrast to the sordid atmosphere of the neighborhood and the frequent difficulties of the protagonists’ lives. Geoffrey’s nursery rhymes, which he first sings to Jo and which Jo later sings on her own, add another dimension of optimism and naiveté to the play. At the same time, both instances of child-like singing also lead the characters to reflect seriously on complex issues of dependence and independence, as well as the relationship between children and parents. While Jo uses these moments to highlight adults’ responsibility toward their children and the general need for people to care for each other, Helen uses them as an opportunity to escape her own responsibilities and return to an ideal time of freedom and carelessness. These moments of singing thus both interrupt and reinforce some of the deeper themes in the play. They force the characters to reflect on their own position within webs of responsibility and interdependence, and to examine people’s capacity to take care of themselves and of others.
Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes Quotes in A Taste of Honey
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.
JO: His mother. Think of all the harm she does having children.