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Analyse the Role of Key Characters in 'Blood Brothers'.

In this worksheet, students will analyse the techniques used to present the key characters in 'Blood Brothers', considering the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

'Analyse the Role of Key Characters 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

What techniques does Russell use to present his key characters in 'Blood Brothers'?

 

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers      

 

The main characters we meet in the musical are: 

Mrs Johnstone - The mother of the twins

Mrs Lyons - Persuades Mrs Johnstone to give her one of her twins

Mr Lyons - married to Mrs Lyons and is unaware that Edward is not really his child

Mickey - grows up with his real mother Mrs Johnstone and the rest of his family

Edward - was given away as a baby to Mrs Lyons

Linda - close friends with Mickey and Edward

Sammy - Mickey's older brother

The narrator - sometimes plays other roles such as the milkman and teacher and sometimes is a mysterious character who comments on the action in the musical

 

In the Literature exam, you may be asked to write about how a particular character is presented in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

To achieve a higher mark in the exam, you need to show that you are analysing a character.

 

To do this you must:

- pick out some of the language/structure/dramatic devices used to present the character. 

- consider how the character reflects something about the context in which Russell was writing and in which the musical is set.

 

In this activity, we will practise analysing the characters in 'Blood Brothers' in this way.

 

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

 

Which of the words below best describe Mrs Johnstone?

Superstitious

Pessimistic

Optimistic

Loving

Uncaring

Overly protective

Match the quotations below to what they show about Mrs Lyons.

Column A

Column B

"If he needs picking up, I shall pick him up. All ...
Insecure
"Because if we stay here I feel that something ter...
Manipulative
"They...they say that if either twin learns that h...
Paranoid

How does the following quotation spoken by Mr Lyons reflect something about the context in which Russell was writing?

 

"Mummy will read the story, Edward. I've got to go to work for an hour."

Column A

Column B

"If he needs picking up, I shall pick him up. All ...
Insecure
"Because if we stay here I feel that something ter...
Manipulative
"They...they say that if either twin learns that h...
Paranoid

Match the following quotations to aspects of the narrator.

Column A

Column B

"So did y'hear the story of the Johnstone twins?"
He creates an ominous tone
"How swiftly those who've made a pact, can come to...
He takes on different roles such as the milkman
"Yes y'know the devil's got your number"
The narrator helps set the scene in a prologue
"Now you've been told, no money, no milk"
The narrator watches and comments on the action

What motif is used by the narrator to remind the audience of the idea of fate?

What is the effect of the motif of Marilyn Monroe in Mrs Johnstone's song lyrics?  Use your text to help you with this question.

 

Marilyn Monroe

What type of word has Russell used in the stage direction below to show that Edward is impressed by Mickey?

 

"Edward: (awed) ... You say smashing things, don't you?"

Match the quotations below to the explanation of how they reflect something about the context in which Russell was writing.

Column A

Column B

"Edward: So you're not working. Why is it so impor...
Russell depicts how easy it was for men to turn to...
"Mickey: That's why I take them. So I can be invis...
Russell portrays Edward's lack of understanding ab...
"Mickey: Since you left I've been walking around a...
Russell shows how serious unemployment was in Live...
"Sammy: Fifty quid, Mickey. Fifty quid for an hour...
Russell portrays the depression that many working ...

The way that Mickey is shown to be trying hard to improve his life by not taking his antidepressant pills, heightens the tragedy of Linda and Edward's affair and the devastating events that following this revelation.

 

Underline the adjective in the quotation below that Russell uses to highlight how hard Mickey is trying to improve.

\"We see the strain of this upon him but see that he is determined.\"

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How does Russell present the character of Mrs Johnstone?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

  • Question 1

Which of the words below best describe Mrs Johnstone?

CORRECT ANSWER
Superstitious
Optimistic
Loving
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find the three correct ones? Mrs Johnstone is the mother of Edward and Mickey. She's presented as a working-class character who gives one of her babies away to Mrs Lyons because she doesn't think she can afford two babies. She lives in poverty and struggles to look after and feed her many children. We also find out that Mrs Johnstone is very superstitious - she panics when Mrs Lyons puts shoes on the table. Mrs Lyons is then able to manipulate her by making up a superstition, suggesting the brothers will immediately die if they find out that they were twins. This keeps Mrs Johnstone quiet! Russell presents Mrs Johnstone as a caring mother, showing her children love and affection and she's also an optimistic character. She dreams of being able to offer her children more and when she's rehoused in Skelmersdale, she's genuinely excited about the new opportunity this will give her and her family. Mrs Johnstone is a likeable character in this way - despite not being able to look after her children in the best way at times, she's shown to have good intentions and a pure heart.
  • Question 2

Match the quotations below to what they show about Mrs Lyons.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"If he needs picking up, I shall ...
Insecure
"Because if we stay here I feel t...
Paranoid
"They...they say that if either t...
Manipulative
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Mrs Lyons persuades Mrs Johnstone to give her one of her babies, not being able to have children of her own but desperate to have a child. She originally tells Mrs Johnstone that she would be able to see the baby every day as Mrs Johnstone is her cleaner. However, very quickly things change. When Mrs Lyons sees Mrs Johnstone with Edward she becomes insecure and doesn't want Mrs Johnstone picking the baby up. She ends up sacking Mrs Johnstone because of her anxiety around her being with the baby. She then manipulates Mrs Johnstone into never telling the twins the truth by making up a superstition that she knows will put fear into her. We gradually see insecurity turn into paranoia, with Mrs Lyons desperate to keep Edward away from Mrs Johnstone and even moving away to try to escape her. Of course, Mrs Johnstone is rehoused in the same place unknowingly and we see Mrs Lyon's paranoia spiral out of control until she is described as 'mad'.
  • Question 3

How does the following quotation spoken by Mr Lyons reflect something about the context in which Russell was writing?

 

"Mummy will read the story, Edward. I've got to go to work for an hour."

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Remember that for a higher mark in the exam, it's important to link ideas about characters to the context in which Russell was writing. Russell portrays gender stereotypes in the musical and Mr Lyons is presented as a traditional male figure who spends his time working while his wife looks after his child and house. Later in the musical we also see how he makes the decisions in the household, showing that a traditional hierarchy in their marriage exists. For example, Mrs Lyons asks him if they can move and he makes the decision for his family.
  • Question 4

Match the following quotations to aspects of the narrator.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"So did y'hear the story of the J...
The narrator helps set the scene ...
"How swiftly those who've made a ...
The narrator watches and comments...
"Yes y'know the devil's got your ...
He creates an ominous tone
"Now you've been told, no money, ...
He takes on different roles such ...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? The narrator is a mysterious character who adds to the dramatic tension in the musical. He has lots of different roles. He comments on the action of the characters and adopts lots of different roles such as the milkman, the judge and the teacher. He also helps develop the idea of superstition and fate by creating an ominous and threatening tone through his dialogue and the lyrics in his songs.
  • Question 5

What motif is used by the narrator to remind the audience of the idea of fate?

CORRECT ANSWER
Devil
The devil
EDDIE SAYS
Did you get this one? Remember that for the highest marks in the exam, it's important to analyse the writer's techniques. The reference to the 'devil' is a motif because it's an idea that is repeated throughout the musical. It reminds the audience that the boys' fates are already sealed - after all the audience has already seen how this story will end. This motif helps create an ominous and threatening tone and creates tension for the audience. In the lighter moments, the narrator always arrives to remind us that things are not going to end well.
  • Question 6

What is the effect of the motif of Marilyn Monroe in Mrs Johnstone's song lyrics?  Use your text to help you with this question.

 

Marilyn Monroe

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces? Remember that for a higher mark in the exam, it's important to analyse the writer's techniques. Here we are analysing language. Marilyn Monroe is an idea in Mrs Johnstone's song lyrics that are repeated - this makes it a motif. Marilyn Monroe was a famous and iconic film star who enjoyed success but died from a drug overdose. The comparison of Mrs Johnstone to Marilyn Monroe creates more foreshadowing in the musical of how tragedy will cut her happiness short also. Of course, we know how the musical will end as we're shown at the beginning but Russell provides lots of reminders throughout the musical that things will not end well and this is one of them!
  • Question 7

What type of word has Russell used in the stage direction below to show that Edward is impressed by Mickey?

 

"Edward: (awed) ... You say smashing things, don't you?"

CORRECT ANSWER
Adjective
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot that 'awed' is an adjective? To show that you are analysing language closely, you need to zoom in on individual words, use the correct terminology to define them and then explain their effect. Russell uses the adjective 'awed' to show how Edward feels about Mickey when he first meets him. This gives the impression that he's really impressed by Mickey and is amazed by the words he uses. Russell shows how the power in their relationship as children is very much with Mickey - Edward looks up to him and thinks everything about him is cool! Of course, the power shifts as they grow up and Edward's middle-class background affords him a better life than Mickey.
  • Question 8

Match the quotations below to the explanation of how they reflect something about the context in which Russell was writing.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"Edward: So you're not working. W...
Russell portrays Edward's lack of...
"Mickey: That's why I take them. ...
Russell portrays the depression t...
"Mickey: Since you left I've been...
Russell shows how serious unemplo...
"Sammy: Fifty quid, Mickey. Fifty...
Russell depicts how easy it was f...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Russell presents the characters as stereotypes that help depict aspects of society he saw in Liverpool during the 60s and 70s. Mickey is a stereotypical working-class man and he helps Russell to reflect the unemployment and poverty and show how easy it was for men to fall into depression and turn to crime. By presenting the actions that result in crime, Russell encourages his audience to sympathise with Mickey and the men he represents. He shows how desperate they must've been. At the same time, Edward is a stereotype of middle-class life - he's so ignorant to the reality of Mickey's life that it forces the audience to think about their own attitude to people in society and question whether we really know what people have to deal with. Edward has no clue about struggling for money - he flings cash around freely without thought.
  • Question 9

The way that Mickey is shown to be trying hard to improve his life by not taking his antidepressant pills, heightens the tragedy of Linda and Edward's affair and the devastating events that following this revelation.

 

Underline the adjective in the quotation below that Russell uses to highlight how hard Mickey is trying to improve.

CORRECT ANSWER
"We see the strain of this upon him but see that he is determined."
EDDIE SAYS
The adjective used is 'determined'. Remember that zooming in on individual words in the dialogue or stage directions shows that you're closely analysing language. The tragedy of this determination in Mickey comes from the fact that this detail in the stage direction follows the action of Edward and Linda's affair where Russell describes how "suddenly they kiss". Just as we see Mickey try to turn his life around, we see that it's all too late.
  • 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 the writer presents a particular character in the musical.

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How does Russell present the character of Mrs Johnstone?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone as an optimistic character despite her struggle. The reference to 'dancing' in Mrs Johnstone's first song lyrics is an example of the happiness she tries to find in life whilst the song lyrics in 'Oh, bright new day' when she thinks about her move to Skelmersdale uses such positive, excitable language about what she sees as a fresh start. However, the language in this song also seems unrealistically idealistic suggesting that Mrs Johnstone's optimism is misplaced. Her hopes and dreams in this song are related to a middle-class life. She imagines that 'We might get a car' and 'the garden's so big'; Russell depicts the reality of working-class life as very different from this. Indeed the motif that compares her to 'Marilyn Monroe' running through Mrs Johnstone's songs also highlights how happiness will be fleeting for Mrs Johnstone and that things will end tragically for her. By the end of the musical, the reference to 'Marilyn Monroe' describes 'No more dancing'. Russell's depiction of Mrs Johnstone's optimism in the face of adversity forces the audience to sympathise with her positive outlook on life. Russell intended to paint a realistic picture of working-class life in Liverpool during the 60s and 70s, which was full of poverty and desperation and because of high levels of unemployment, was almost impossible to escape.
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