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
JO: Anyway I’m not getting married like you did.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
GEOF: Has anybody ever tried?
GEOF: Taking you in hand.
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.
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!