A Taste of Honey

Engagement Rings Symbol Icon

When Helen and Jo get engaged within a few hours of each other, it seems that they are both about to commit to serious, long-term relationships. However, reality soon shows these expectations to be ill-founded. While engagement rings represent fidelity and stability, the non-conforming, precarious nature of the two women’s relationships is at odds with such symbolism. When Peter jokingly asks Helen if she wants an engagement ring, Jo makes a derisive comment about the inherently sexual nature of Peter and Helen’s relationship, believing that it has passed the stage of such symbolic attachment. However, moved by youthful enthusiasm, she herself gladly accepts her boyfriend Jimmie’s ring, which she wears around her neck—before her mother tears it off her neck in an outburst of anger. In the end, both women are forced to accept romantic failure. As Helen’s ring fails to materialize when Peter abandons her after a few months, Jo too finds herself both ring- and boyfriend-less at the end of the play. In both cases, the women’s rings thus fail to materialize the stable relationships they are supposed represent. Instead, these symbols of romantic stability only emphasize the contrast between the two women’s desire for emotional fulfillment and the inherently insecure nature of their lives, and come to symbolize broken promises rather than dependability and strength of commitment.

Engagement Rings Quotes in A Taste of Honey

The A Taste of Honey quotes below all refer to the symbol of Engagement Rings. 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 1: Scene 1 Quotes

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
Explanation and Analysis:
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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
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 2: Scene 1 Quotes

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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Act 2: Scene 2 Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Engagement Rings Symbol Timeline in A Taste of Honey

The timeline below shows where the symbol Engagement Rings appears in A Taste of Honey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Scene 1
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...accompany him out, Peter pulls her toward him, asking her if she wants an engagement ring and saying that he knows she is interested in his money. Jo slyly comments that... (full context)
Act 1: Scene 2
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...and she says she simply does. Jimmie says he adores her and gives her a ring he bought earlier that morning in a shop. (full context)
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...two discuss when they should get married and decide to do it in six months, during Jimmie’s next leave. Jo tries to put the ring on her finger but realizes it... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Rebellion and Independence Theme Icon
Jo uses her hair ribbon as a necklace for her ring. Jimmie says she has a pretty neck and Jo tries to hide the ring away,... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Race Theme Icon
Jimmie then tenderly puts on Jo’s necklace. When Jo asks him about the ring, Jimmie admits that he bought it a supermarket, but Jo still finds his intention endearing.... (full context)
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...to hide something. Aggressive in her curiosity, she finally succeeds in grabbing hold of the string around her daughter’s neck and snatches the ring off. Jo then reveals that she is... (full context)
Act 2: Scene 2
Care and Responsibility Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Race Theme Icon
Rebellion and Independence Theme Icon
...plans, Jo criticizes her mother’s attitude of superiority, reminding Helen that being offered an engagement ring only led to her being kicked out of her marriage and forced to return to... (full context)