So did y’hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
As like each other as two new pins,
Of one womb born, on the self same day,
How one was kept and one given away?
An’ did you never hear how the Johnstones died,
Never knowing that they shared one name,
Till the day they died…?
From the first moments of the musical, audience and readers alike know that a tragic ending lies in store for the main characters. Setting the narrative up as a "story" creates a fable-like atmosphere, one… (82 more words in this explanation)
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Oh God, Mrs. Lyons, never put new shoes on a table…You never know what’ll happen.
MRS. LYONS: Oh…you mean you’re superstitious?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: No, but you never put new shoes on a table.
As Mrs. Johnstone performs domestic tasks in Mrs. Lyons' home, she becomes distraught when her employer puts new shoes on a table--a terrible omen, Mrs. Johnstone believes. Her vehement reaction introduces the theme of superstition… (90 more words in this explanation)
In the name of Jesus, the thing was done,
Now there’s no going back, for anyone.
It’s too late now, for feeling torn
There’s a pact been sealed, there’s a deal been born.
How swiftly those who’ve made a pact,
Can come to overlook the fact.
Or wish the reckoning to be delayed
But a debt is a debt, and must be paid.
As the two mothers decide to deceive their sons, Mr. Lyons, and the whole world, the Narrator ominously announces that they can never go back on their word. He reminds the women (though of course… (87 more words in this explanation)
Only mine until
The time comes round
To pay the bill.
Then, I’m afraid,
What can’t be paid
Must be returned.
You never, ever learn,
That nothing’s yours,
On easy terms.
Grieving the loss of her son despite having agreed to it, Mrs. Johnstone looks back on the many debts that she's paid in her life. This song brings up another vital issue behind the idea… (104 more words in this explanation)
MRS. LYONS: You do know what they say about twins, secretly parted, don’t you?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: What? What?
MRS. LYONS: They say…they say that if either twin learns that he once was a pair, that they shall both immediately die. It means, Mrs. Johnstone, that these brothers shall grow up, unaware of the other’s existence. They shall be raised apart and never, ever told what was once the truth. You won’t tell anyone about this, Mrs. Johnstone, because if you do, you will kill them.
Terrified that her son will love his biological mother more than he loves her, Mrs. Lyons lies to Mrs. Johnstone in this passage, playing on her superstitions and ignorance. Mrs. Lyons, of course, knows that… (107 more words in this explanation)
You’re always gonna know what was done
Even when you shut your eyes you still see
That you sold a son
And you can’t tell anyone.
But y’know the devil’s got your number,
Y’know he’s gonna find y’,
Y’know he’s right behind y’,
Yes, y’know the devil’s got your number
And he’s knocking at your door.
As Mrs. Johnstone grapples with her conscience, the Narrator takes on the voice of her guilt, reminding her that no matter what she does, she will always have to carry her terrible secret and shame.
… (83 more words in this explanation)
MICKEY: What’s your birthday?
EDWARD: July the eighteenth.
MICKEY: So is mine.
EDWARD: Is it really?
MICKEY: Ey, we were born on the same day…that means we can be blood brothers. Do you wanna be my blood brother, Eddie?
EDWARD: Yes, please.
As innocent though rambunctious children, Mickey and Eddie meet and immediately bond. Although Mickey is the less educated of the two, he is seemingly the more insightful. Though the idea of "blood brothers" is only… (95 more words in this explanation)
You see, you see why I don’t want you mixing with boys like that! You learn filth from them and behave like this like a, like a horrible little boy, like them. But you are not like them. You are my son, mine, and you won’t..you won’t ever…Oh my son…my beautiful, beautiful son.
Already, Mrs. Lyons has become paranoid and suffocating. Her snobbishness has morphed into full-blown class hatred as she strives to keep her son away from his brother and his biological mother. She repeats "you are… (90 more words in this explanation)
But you know that if you cross your fingers
And if you count from one to ten
You can get up off the ground again
It doesn’t matter
The whole thing’s just a game.
Along with Eddie, the neighborhood children play a game that involves battling with toy guns. Going over the rules, they explain that once you're shot in the game, you can simply "cross your fingers," count… (90 more words in this explanation)
MRS. LYONS:…If we stay here I feel that something terrible will happen, something bad.
MR. LYONS: Look, Jen. What is this thing you keep talking about getting away from? Mm?
MRS. LYONS: It’s just…it’s these people…these people that Edward has started mixing with. Can’t you see how he’s drawn to them? They’re…they’re drawing him away from me.
Deeply distraught that her son has met his (unknown) brother, Mrs. Lyons begs her detached husband to move the family away. She claims that she wants to remove her son from the bad element in… (89 more words in this explanation)
Happy, are y’. Content at last?
Wiped out what happened, forgotten the past?
But you’ve got to have an endin’, if a start’s been made.
No one gets off without the price bein’ paid.
The Johnstones rejoice as they get to move to their new home out in the country. Mrs. Johnstone is especially jubilant, convinced that this change will allow her to leave behind her troubled and secretive… (94 more words in this explanation)
MRS. LYONS: Where did you get that…locket from, Edward? Why do you wear it?
EDWARD: I can’t tell you that, Ma. I’ve explained, it’s a secret. I can’t tell you.
MRS. LYONS: But…but I’m your mother.
EDWARD: I know, but I still can’t tell you. It’s not important, I’m going up to my room. It’s just a secret, everybody has secrets, don’t you have secrets?
Having received a locket as a gift from Mrs. Johnstone, Eddie refuses to tell his mother how he came by it, knowing that she will be furious (but not understanding why). Once again, Mrs. Lyons… (97 more words in this explanation)
What…Linda…Linda…Don’t…Linda, I wanna kiss y’, an’ put me arms around y’ an’ kiss y’ and kiss y’ an even fornicate with y’ but I don’t know how to tell y’ because I’ve got pimples an’ me feet are too big an’ me bum sticks out an’…
Frustrated and tongue-tied, Mickey has no idea how to tell Linda how he feels, so he instead rants to an empty stage about his feelings for her. In an often-dark musical, this moment is a… (82 more words in this explanation)
EDWARD: I wish I was a bit like
Wish that I could score a hit like
And be just a little bit like
MICKEY: I wish that I could be like
Just a little less like me
Like the sort of guy I see, like
Not realizing that each is viewing his childhood friend (and secret brother), Mickey and Edward watch and envy each other from a distance here. Having been brought up in different circumstances, they have become vastly… (88 more words in this explanation)
MRS. LYONS: Afraid he might eventually have forgotten you? Oh no. There’s no chance of that. He’ll always remember you. After we’d moved he talked less and less of you and your family. I started…just for a while I came to believe that he was actually mine.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: He is yours.
MRS. LYONS: No. I took him. But I never made him mine. Does he know? Have you told…
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Of course not!
MRS. LYONS: Even when—when he was a tiny baby I’d see him looking straight at me and I’d think, he knows…he knows. You have ruined me. But you won’t ruin Edward!
Meeting again after years and years, the two mothers have a confrontation: Mrs. Johnstone is confused and placating, while Mrs. Lyons is aggressive and accusatory. By now, her paranoia has morphed into a raging delusion… (112 more words in this explanation)
MRS. JOHNSTONE: YOU’RE MAD. MAD.
MRS. LYONS: I curse the day I met you. You ruined me.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go. Just go!
MRS. LYONS: Witch. I curse you. Witch!
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go!
Becoming increasingly hysterical, Mrs. Lyons grows convinced that Mrs. Johnstone has ruined her life and her happiness. In revenge, she curses Mrs. Johnstone, calling her a "witch," and even attempting to hurt her.
In a… (76 more words in this explanation)
And who’d dare tell the lambs in Spring,
What fate the later seasons bring.
Who’d tell the girl in the middle of the pair
The price she’ll pay just for being there.
As the play depicts the idyllic adolescence of Linda, Mickey, and Edward, the Narrator returns to ruin the perfect picture, reminding the audience/readers that the happiness we are witnessing will soon turn to sorrow. He… (89 more words in this explanation)
EDWARD: If I was him, if I was him
That’s what I’d do.
But I’m not saying a word
I’m not saying I care
Though I would like you to know
That I’ not saying a word
I’m not saying I care
Though I would like you to know.
But I’m not.
As Mickey, Eddie, and Linda get older, the seeds of discord begin to spring up: although Mickey and Linda are childhood friends, and clearly compatible in terms of their class, Eddie is also in love… (100 more words in this explanation)
Take a letter, Miss Jones,
Due to the world situation
The shrinking pound, the global slump
And the price of oil
I’m afraid we must fire you,
We no longer require you,
It’s just another
Sign of the times,
A most miserable sign of the times.
The Managing Director of a factory has his secretary, Miss Jones, fire many of his employees, including Mickey. This event will cause a downward spiral in Mickey's life, leading him to end up in jail… (101 more words in this explanation)
EDWARD: I thought, I thought we always stuck together. I thought we were…blood brothers.
MICKEY: That was kids’ stuff, Eddie. Didn’t anyone tell y’? But I suppose you still are a kid, aren’t y’?
EDWARD: I’m exactly the same age as you, Mickey.
MICKEY: Yeh. But you’re still a kid. An’ I wish I could be as well Eddie, I wish I could still believe in all that blood brother stuff. But I can’t, because while no one was looking I grew up. An’ you didn’t, because you didn’t need to; an’ I don’t blame y’ for it Eddie. In your shoes I’d be the same, I’d still be able to be a kid. But I’m not in your shoes, I’m in these, lookin’ at you. An’ you make me sick, right? That was all just kids’ stuff, Eddie, an’ I don’t want to be reminded of it. Right? So just, just take yourself away. Go an’ see your friends an’ celebrate with them.
Eddie and Mickey have now grown up; Eddie is in college, and Mickey has already been laid off from his factory job. While Eddie remains young and carefree, eager to celebrate and spend time with… (150 more words in this explanation)
I didn’t sort anythin’ out Linda. Not a job, not a house, nothin’. It used to be just sweets an’ ciggies he gave me, because I had none of me own. Now it’s a job and a house. I’m not stupid, Linda. You sorted it out. You an’ Councilor Eddie Lyons.
Now embittered and cynical, Mickey furiously confronts Linda, convinced that she has conspired with Eddie to get their family a house, and to get him a job. During his years of unemployment and prison, Mickey's… (109 more words in this explanation)
There’s a man gone mad in the town tonight,
He’s gonna shoot somebody down,
There’s a man gone mad, lost his mind tonight
There’s a mad man running round and round.
Now you know the devil’s got your number.
He’s runnin’ right beside you,
He’s screamin’ deep inside you,
And someone said he’s callin’ your number up today.
When Mickey finds out that Linda and Eddie are having an affair, he completely loses his grip on reason, finds a gun, and sets out to shoot Eddie. In the midst of a chaotic and… (81 more words in this explanation)
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Mickey. Don’t shoot Eddie. He’s your brother. You had a twin brother. I couldn’t afford to keep both of you. His mother couldn’t have kids. I agreed to give one of you away!
MICKEY: You. You! Why didn’t you give me away? I could have been…I could have been him!
In an attempt to save Eddie's life, Mrs. Johnstone at last confesses her sin to Mickey, telling him that he and Eddie are actually brothers. Her words, however, have the opposite effect that she intended… (126 more words in this explanation)
And do we blame superstition for what came to pass?
Or could it be what we, the English, have come to know as class?
As the twins lie dead before a distraught Mrs. Johnstone, the Narrator enters to sum up what has occurred. Throughout the whole play, he has blamed fate and superstition for the doom that the twins… (130 more words in this explanation)