The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Explore How Themes Develop in 'Blood Brothers'

In this worksheet, students will explore how key themes are developed in Russell's 'Blood Brothers'.

'Explore How Themes Develop 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

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 play explore each of these and will need to be able to use key quotations which demonstrate these themes.

 

For a higher mark in the exam, you also need to think about how themes change and develop by exploring their presentation in different parts of the musical.

 

You should also try to link the themes to the key contextual factors surrounding 'Blood Brothers.'

 

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.

 

How do Mickey and Edward's upbringings in families of different social classes affect their adult life?

 

Match the character to the correct explanation.

Column A

Column B

Edward
Enough money to help others
Edward
Jobs as a councillor
Mickey
Depression
Mickey
Unemployment

Which question spoken by Mickey to Mrs Johnstone near the end of the musical, suggests that he thinks he could have had a better life if he had been brought up in a middle-class family?

Column A

Column B

Edward
Enough money to help others
Edward
Jobs as a councillor
Mickey
Depression
Mickey
Unemployment

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

 

We see how Mrs Lyons uses money to try to maintain power over Mrs Johnstone.

 

Piles of cash

 

Does money buy happiness for Mrs Lyons?

 

 

 

 

 

Yes

No

Which symbol is repeated by the narrator in his songs to remind the audience that fate will bring the two boys together in their deaths and that this can't be escaped?

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

 

Complete the passage below to explore the development of this theme in the musical.

Russell explores the theme of childhood in the musical.

 

Match the aspects of childhood to what they show about growing up as a child in a working-class family.

Column A

Column B

"Ey mum, how come I'm on free dinners? All the oth...
Russell shows how working class life for children ...
"Mum, I can't sleep, I'm hungry, I'm starvin"
Despite the struggle, Russell creates comedy throu...
"I think it must have been one of them little plat...
Russell contrasts the carefree nature of childhood...
"It doesn't matter, The whole thing's just a game"
Russell highlights how children had to cope with t...

Russell also explores the theme of growing up.

 

We see Mickey desperate to grow up and be able to do the things his older brother Sammy can do.

 

What changes do we see in the characters as they grow up throughout the musical?

The relationship with Linda becomes more complicated

The three youngsters become closer than ever

Mickey has to deal with unemployment and lack of job opportunities

Mickey gets a job and is able to provide for Linda who becomes pregnant

Mickey and Eddie drift apart and conflict arises from the differences in their upbringings and the opportunities this provides

Friendship is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Russell shows a power shift in the friendship of Mickey and Edward as the musical progresses.

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers

The relationship with Linda becomes more complicated

The three youngsters become closer than ever

Mickey has to deal with unemployment and lack of job opportunities

Mickey gets a job and is able to provide for Linda who becomes pregnant

Mickey and Eddie drift apart and conflict arises from the differences in their upbringings and the opportunities this provides

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

It is now time to have a go at a mini-essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular theme in the musical.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a theme to the key contextual factors surrounding the musical.

 

For the highest marks, you will also need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this theme.

 

Task: How are ideas about growing up explored in 'Blood Brothers'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

 

  • Question 1

Russell explores the theme of class.

 

How do Mickey and Edward's upbringings in families of different social classes affect their adult life?

 

Match the character to the correct explanation.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Edward
Jobs as a councillor
Edward
Enough money to help others
Mickey
Unemployment
Mickey
Depression
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Edward and Mickey's childhoods are contrasted in the musical. As we see them grow up, we see how their lives have turned out so differently. Mickey struggles with unemployment and is desperate for money, as a result, he agrees to be the lookout in Sammy's robbery. He ends up in prison and when he comes out is depressed and addicted to anti-depressants. Edward, on the other hand, having had a university education, manages to secure himself a good job. Linda looks to him for help when Mickey spirals downwards. Russell wanted to depict the strong class divide in the 60s and 70s and show how social class affected people's opportunities. Mickey and Edward's lives play out extremely differently.
  • Question 2

Which question spoken by Mickey to Mrs Johnstone near the end of the musical, suggests that he thinks he could have had a better life if he had been brought up in a middle-class family?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Well spotted if you got this one! It's a key quote to memorise for the exam. When Mrs Johnstone tells Mickey that he had a twin brother, Mickey is described as "uncontrollable with rage". Russell shows how angry Mickey is when he asks "Why didn't you give me away?" This shows how resentful he is of Eddie because of the better upbringing and life opportunities he has had. Mickey goes onto say "I could have been him!" which further highlights how he believes that his social class has been the cause of the way his life has turned out. Here Russell explores how the class divide during the 60s and 70s really affected people's opportunities.
  • Question 3

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

 

We see how Mrs Lyons uses money to try to maintain power over Mrs Johnstone.

 

Piles of cash

 

Does money buy happiness for Mrs Lyons?

 

 

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
No
EDDIE SAYS
Russell shows how money had power but didn't necessarily bring happiness. Mrs Lyons has the power of money to threaten Mrs Johnstone and to move her family away from the Johnstones (temporarily). However, this fails to bring her the happiness she believes it will. She's constantly worried that the boys will meet and when they do, she's terrified that the truth will come out. In Mrs Lyon's last attempt to get rid of the Johnstones, she offers thousands of pounds which Mrs Johnstone rejects. Mrs Lyons tells her "You ruined me." expressing just how unhappy she is. In the end, money is shown to be powerless in keeping the boys apart. Both die together in the end, resulting in tragedy for Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. Russell perhaps suggests that fate is at play here and that money never had the power they thought it had.
  • Question 4

Which symbol is repeated by the narrator in his songs to remind the audience that fate will bring the two boys together in their deaths and that this can't be escaped?

CORRECT ANSWER
Devil
The devil
EDDIE SAYS
The devil acts as a symbol of the destiny of the boys. Throughout the musical, we see Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone trying to change or avoid fate. The narrator reminds us of the power of fate when he says "You know the devil's got your number". Of course, the audience knows from the beginning scene that the twins will die at the end and this line reminds us that it's only a matter of time before this fate arrives. Towards the end of the musical, Russell depicts the devil getting closer and closer as the twins' destiny is nearly realised - the narrator says "someone said they'd seen him walking past your door" and then the next time the narrator says "someone said they'd seen him leanin' on your door." The last time the narrator refers to the devil before the death of the boy talks about how the devil's "callin' your number up today". The audience knows that the final fate of the twins is going to then play out.
  • Question 5

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

 

Complete the passage below to explore the development of this theme in the musical.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces? For a higher mark in the exam, it's important to refer to different parts of the musical and look at how themes change and develop throughout. In the passage above, we see how a seed is sown and grows out of control. Mrs Lyons makes up a superstition to manipulate Mrs Johnstone but then the belief in this superstition takes over her life. Russell shows us how a superstitious belief can spread and control people. The narrator's songs constantly remind the audience of these superstitions building a tense and fearful tone within the musical. This tension grows and grows in the play until the tragic end which has been foreshadowed throughout the musical. Russell uses the narrator's closing lines to ask whether we can blame superstition for this tragic end. Has fear created this result? However, he also poses an alternative question - is social class actually to blame? Russell asks whether anything could've been changed to alter the course of destiny or whether fate would have meant that this ending would have happened no matter what.
  • Question 6

Russell explores the theme of childhood in the musical.

 

Match the aspects of childhood to what they show about growing up as a child in a working-class family.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"Ey mum, how come I'm on free din...
Russell highlights how children h...
"Mum, I can't sleep, I'm hungry, ...
Russell shows how working class l...
"I think it must have been one of...
Despite the struggle, Russell cre...
"It doesn't matter, The whole thi...
Russell contrasts the carefree na...
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? On the whole, Russell depicts the innocence and carefree nature of childhood. He shows the children playing games such as cowboys and Indians. The games often involve shooting but we are 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. However, Russell also shows another side to childhood. Russell wanted to depict working-class life and shows how this would have been difficult for children as well as adults. In particular, he shows how children would've gone hungry because of the poverty of their families and would've had to suffer the prejudice of others for the way they were being brought up, through no fault of their own.
  • Question 7

Russell also explores the theme of growing up.

 

We see Mickey desperate to grow up and be able to do the things his older brother Sammy can do.

 

What changes do we see in the characters as they grow up throughout the musical?

CORRECT ANSWER
The relationship with Linda becomes more complicated
Mickey has to deal with unemployment and lack of job opportunities
Mickey and Eddie drift apart and conflict arises from the differences in their upbringings and the opportunities this provides
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find three relevant ones? As the musical progresses, so do the lives of the young characters. We watch them grow into young adults and see how their lives change. In particular, a love triangle develops. Both Mickey and Eddie like Linda. Linda ends up with Mickey and becomes pregnant. Life for Mickey gets worse and worse - Russell shows how his working-class upbringing means that few opportunities are open to him. He becomes unemployed and can't find another job. Russell reflected the high unemployment rate in Liverpool during the 60s and 70s and the struggle for men like Mickey to find work. This causes conflict with Eddie when he returns from university as carefree as ever - his upbringing has enabled him to live a more comfortable life and he hasn't yet had to take on real adult responsibility. This leads to resentment in Mickey and we see the twins begin to drift apart - Russell shows how Eddie's middle-class upbringing has opened doors for him whilst Mickey's working-class background has severely limited his life opportunities.
  • Question 8

Friendship is a key theme in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

Russell shows a power shift in the friendship of Mickey and Edward as the musical progresses.

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Remember that for the higher marks in the exam, it's important to look at how themes develop across a text - you should therefore try to refer to lots of different parts of a text when answering an exam question on characters or themes. When exploring the theme of childhood and growing up, we can see how the musical watches the twins whole lives from birth to death. Their friendship develops, with Eddie admiring Mickey and thinking everything he says and does is really cool. However, we see how working-class life takes its toll on Mickey and how his adult responsibilities are too much to bear. Unemployment and then prison result in a deep depression that means that he can't be the husband or father he wants and needs to be. Eddie's university education leads to better jobs prospects and enables him to support Linda and Mickey financially. We, therefore, see a complete power shift in their relationship as the musical progresses. Russell wanted to depict the struggles of working-class life during the 60s and 70s and to reflect how this was made even worse by the huge levels of unemployment caused by the industrial decline in Liverpool during this period. He wanted to show how crime and depression were a result of this and reflects this through the character of Mickey.
  • 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 shows some strong women who go beyond these roles.
  • Question 10

It is now time to have a go at a mini-essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular theme in the musical.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a theme to the key contextual factors surrounding the musical.

 

For the highest marks, you will also need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this theme.

 

Task: How are ideas about growing up explored in 'Blood Brothers'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Russell explores the innocence of childhood through the pretend games the children play. The song lyrics "You can get up off the ground again" and "The whole thing's just a game" are used by Russell to highlight how the pretend violence of childhood games have no real consequences. Russell juxtaposes this carefree childhood with the responsibility of adulthood, showing as Sammy says "We're not playin' games" and highlighting how the decisions made in adulthood have real and sometimes tragic consequences. The violence foreshadowed in the childhood games are played out for real in adulthood, allowing Russell to depict the crime and gang culture he saw grow in Liverpool during the 60s and 70s. He wanted to show how the working-class section of society were most affected by the industrial decline, resulting in unemployment like Mickey's which then lead to crime and depression as a result. Russell shows how the need for money, "fifty quid for an hour's work", persuades a young, unemployed Mickey to be the lookout in a robbery, a split decision that leads to him being "sent down for seven years". Russell shows how young working-class men were forced to take responsibility so young and were forced into making bad decisions that had terrible consequences because of their desperate poverty, highlighting how childhood innocence was fleeting.
Try it ---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.