A Taste of Honey

Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes Symbol Analysis

Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes Symbol Icon

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

The A Taste of Honey quotes below all refer to the symbol of Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
). 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 2: Scene 1 Quotes

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
Explanation and Analysis:
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Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes Symbol Timeline in A Taste of Honey

The timeline below shows where the symbol Children’s Singing and Nursery Rhymes appears in A Taste of Honey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2: Scene 1
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Adversity and Resilience Theme Icon
...a playful tone, calling her creation a dramatic recitation. Geof then recites a couple of nursery rhymes that Jo enjoys. The second one ends with the following lines: “If I had half... (full context)
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Race Theme Icon
In the dark, Jo then begins to sing a nursery rhyme about a black boy and, when Geof asks about her boyfriend, she says he was... (full context)
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Race Theme Icon
...few months pass, and Jo and Geof are still living together. While the sound of children’s singing can be heard from outside the apartment, the two complain about the heat and the... (full context)
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Jo listens to the children singing outside and asks Geof why he is still here, to which Geof replies that someone... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 2
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Adversity and Resilience Theme Icon
Helen then hears children singing outside and recalls her own childhood. She gives a long speech about her childhood activities,... (full context)
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Adversity and Resilience Theme Icon
...After Helen hurriedly leaves the apartment, Jo looks around the room and remembers the playful nursery rhyme that Geof once recited to her. Smiling, she recites it again, concluding her speech with... (full context)