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Identify Key Themes in 'Blood Brothers'

In this worksheet, students will explore the key themes presented in Russell's 'Blood Brothers'.

'Identify Key Themes in 'Blood Brothers'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   Eduqas, Pearson Edexcel, AQA

Curriculum topic:   Post-1914 Prose / Drama, Post-1914 Play or Novel, Modern Texts: Drama

Curriculum subtopic:   Blood Brothers

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

How do the images below relate to the key themes in 'Blood Brothers'?

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers       Piles of cash    Devil

 

Some of the themes that Russell explores in 'Blood Brothers' are:

 

Class

Money

Fate

Superstition

Childhood 

Growing up

Friendship

Identity

Gender

Violence

Nature vs. nurture

 

In the exam, you might be asked to comment on the presentation of a theme.

 

You will need to know which parts of the musical explore each of these and will need to be able to use key quotations which demonstrate these themes.

 

Have a go at the following questions to revise the key themes Russell explores in the play.

 

You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples.  These quotations are for reference only.

 

Russell explores the theme of class.

 

Match the characters below to the social class they represent in the musical.

Column A

Column B

Mrs Johnstone
Working class
Mrs Lyons
Middle class

Russell explores the power of money as a theme in the musical.

 

Piles of cash

 

Where do we see the power of money? 

Column A

Column B

Mrs Johnstone
Working class
Mrs Lyons
Middle class

Fate is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'. 

 

Despite Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone trying to keep the twins apart, they seem to be destined to be together.

 

Complete the quotation below using your text, that sets up the theme of fate and suggests to the audience that the boys will always find a way back to each other.

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers

Column A

Column B

Mrs Johnstone
Working class
Mrs Lyons
Middle class

Russell explores the idea of superstitions as a theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

In particular, Mrs Johnstone is a very superstitious character.

 

Which quotations below depict one of the superstitions in the musical?

"Oh God, Mrs Lyons, never put new shoes on a table...You never know what'll happen."

"You gave your baby away. Don't you realise what a crime that is?"

"Someone broke the lookin' glass"

"You're walkin' on the pavement cracks"

"You don't go up near there"

Russell explores the theme of childhood in the musical.

 

How does he depict childhood in the following song lyrics?

 

"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"

Difficult

Carefree

Complicated

Which theme is explored in Mickey's song where he sings:

 

"Cos me mam says I'm only seven, But I'm not, I'm nearly eight"?

Growing up

Bad parenting

Forgetfulness

Friendship is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Mickey and Edward become close friends.

 

Who is the third member of their close friendship group?

Russell explores the idea of nature vs. nurture in the play.

 

Where are the twins shown to be similar, suggesting that nature is strongest and where are they shown to be different, suggesting that nurture is the strongest?

 SimilarDifferent
The way they speak
Their manners
Social ability
Education and Intelligence
The way they are treated by others
Who they fall in love with
What happens to them at school
Job opportunities

Russell explores the idea of gender in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Which aspects below show that he presents the traditional gender stereotypes of men and women in the 60s and 70s?

Mr Lyons is often absent and away working

Linda becomes a mother and housewife

Mr Lyons makes the significant decisions in their family

Mrs Lyons is desperate for a baby

Mrs Johnstone goes out to work to provide for her family

What characteristics are associated with each social class in the play?

 Working classMiddle class
Good education
Good job prospects
Unemployment
Prejudice
Good manners
Good behaviour
Bad language
  • Question 1

Russell explores the theme of class.

 

Match the characters below to the social class they represent in the musical.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Mrs Johnstone
Working class
Mrs Lyons
Middle class
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them both? Mrs Johnstone represents the working-class - Russell depicts her in the opening Act struggling to pay the bills and to feed her family. It's this difficult life that prompts her to give her baby away - she simply doesn't think she can afford to feed and look after two more babies. Mrs Lyons is depicted as the opposite! She represents the middle-class section of society. She lives in a larger house and can even afford a cleaner - Mrs Johnstone. Mrs Lyons has the money she needs to buy what she wants.
  • Question 2

Russell explores the power of money as a theme in the musical.

 

Piles of cash

 

Where do we see the power of money? 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces? Russell shows how money is powerful - those with money have the power and are able to manipulate those who don't have money. Russell shows how the working-class life in the 60s and 70s was terribly difficult with high levels of unemployment and people struggling to feed their families. This helps us understand why money persuades people to make the decisions they do.
  • Question 3

Fate is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'. 

 

Despite Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone trying to keep the twins apart, they seem to be destined to be together.

 

Complete the quotation below using your text, that sets up the theme of fate and suggests to the audience that the boys will always find a way back to each other.

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? This is the first time Mickey and Eddie meet after being separated at birth. Their initial connection is shown to be very strong and they very quickly become really good friends. Throughout the musical, despite their mothers trying to keep them apart, they are drawn to each other. For example, Mrs Lyons moves away to Skelmersdale and then Mrs Johnstone gets rehoused there. Russell explores the idea of fate - there's a sense that the boys are meant to be together.
  • Question 4

Russell explores the idea of superstitions as a theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

In particular, Mrs Johnstone is a very superstitious character.

 

Which quotations below depict one of the superstitions in the musical?

CORRECT ANSWER
"Oh God, Mrs Lyons, never put new shoes on a table...You never know what'll happen."
"Someone broke the lookin' glass"
"You're walkin' on the pavement cracks"
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to find three? Mrs Johnstone first shows that she is superstitious when she tells Mrs Lyons not to put new shoes on the table. Superstitions are a belief in some supernatural power that can create good or bad luck. Mrs Johnstone refers to the new shoes on the table because she believes that this will bring bad luck. Later we see Mrs Lyons make up a superstition to maintain power over Mrs Johnstone, telling her that separated twins will both die if they find out they were once a pair. The narrator's songs then create tension by often referring to superstitions and to remind the audience that something bad is going to happen.
  • Question 5

Russell explores the theme of childhood in the musical.

 

How does he depict childhood in the following song lyrics?

 

"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"

CORRECT ANSWER
Carefree
EDDIE SAYS
The song lyrics depict childhood as carefree. Russell shows the children playing games such as "cowboys and Indians". The games often involve shooting but we're reminded that there are no real consequences to these games. Once the children are 'shot' in the game, they can get up again. Of course, adulthood is contrasted against this - in adulthood, there are no games. And in adulthood, actions have real consequences.
  • Question 6

Which theme is explored in Mickey's song where he sings:

 

"Cos me mam says I'm only seven, But I'm not, I'm nearly eight"?

CORRECT ANSWER
Growing up
EDDIE SAYS
This song explores the theme of growing up. Here we see Mickey desperate to grow up - he idolises Sammy, his older brother, and wishes he could do all of the things he can do as an older boy. Mickey talks about how Sammy can play with matches and can go to bed late - all of the things he associates with growing up. Of course, the irony of this is that Mickey grows up to be depressed and desperate.
  • Question 7

Friendship is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Mickey and Edward become close friends.

 

Who is the third member of their close friendship group?

CORRECT ANSWER
Linda
EDDIE SAYS
Linda, Mickey and Eddie become a little trio. Linda was first friends with Mickey and then when Mickey and Eddie become friends, Linda plays with both of them. We see their friendship develop in various ways throughout the musical. At first, it seems quite simple but as the three grow up things get more complicated. Romantic thoughts then come into the equation - both Mickey and Eddie like Linda romantically and this causes tension as the three move into adulthood. Mickey and Eddie lead starkly different lives. In the end, Linda ends up with Mickey who has been to prison and is struggling with depression. She has his baby and becomes desperate - she leans on Eddie for support. Eddie and Linda start an affair towards the end of the musical. It's Mickey's jealousy that prompts the final confrontation that ends up with the death of both of the twins.
  • Question 8

Russell explores the idea of nature vs. nurture in the play.

 

Where are the twins shown to be similar, suggesting that nature is strongest and where are they shown to be different, suggesting that nurture is the strongest?

CORRECT ANSWER
 SimilarDifferent
The way they speak
Their manners
Social ability
Education and Intelligence
The way they are treated by others
Who they fall in love with
What happens to them at school
Job opportunities
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Russell doesn't give us an answer on the nature/nurture debate but we definitely see how the twins' different upbringings affect their lives - they're educated differently and behave differently. In Act 1, Edward is more polite, generous and well mannered while Mickey is much wilder, using swear words and being rude. However, Russell also shows some similarities between the two, suggesting that nature has a part to play - they both fall in love with Linda, for example. They're also both suspended from school - perhaps this rebellious streak is in their blood. In the end, Mickey resents Eddie and his mother for allowing Eddie the chance to become something better by allowing him to be brought up in a middle-class family. This perhaps suggests that nurture, upbringing and social class play a significant role in how someone turns out.
  • Question 9

Russell explores the idea of gender in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Which aspects below show that he presents the traditional gender stereotypes of men and women in the 60s and 70s?

CORRECT ANSWER
Mr Lyons is often absent and away working
Linda becomes a mother and housewife
Mr Lyons makes the significant decisions in their family
Mrs Lyons is desperate for a baby
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find four that are relevant? In the period that Russell was writing about, traditional family units of mother and father were usual, with men as the breadwinner and women as the mothers and housewives. The Lyons family represent this stereotype. Russell explores women's expected roles as mothers and the failure associated with not fulfilling this role. We see Mrs Lyons desperate for a baby, not being able to have one of her own. The idea of a housewife and mother is further explored through Mrs Johnstone and Linda. However, these characters break the stereotype as well - both of these characters also work as the breadwinner, taking on the male and female roles in their families. Mrs Johnstone's husband left her and Mickey is unable to provide for his family. So, whilst Russell depicts traditional gender roles, he also presents some strong women who go beyond these roles.
  • Question 10

What characteristics are associated with each social class in the play?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Working classMiddle class
Good education
Good job prospects
Unemployment
Prejudice
Good manners
Good behaviour
Bad language
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Russell depicts the stereotypical characteristics associated with each social class. He juxtaposes the two social classes through the presentation of Eddie and Mickey and through their childhood in particular. He shows how middle class children were lucky enough to have private education and were usually well behaved and polite. In contrast to this, Russell showed how lack of education and unemployment made working-class life a struggle, often leading to bad behaviour and manners in children.
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