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Evaluate Key Characters and Their Development in 'Blood Brothers'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate the key characters in 'Blood Brothers', considering Russell's use of language, structure and dramatic devices and how the characters reflect the context in which the play was written and set.

'Evaluate Key Characters and Their Development 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

Two young men clasping hands as blood brothers         thought bubble       Marilyn Monroe
 

 

How far do you agree that Mrs Johnstone is an irresponsible mother?

To what extent is Mrs Lyons a dislikable character?

To what extent do the characters cause their own fates?

How far do you sympathise with Mickey's actions in the musical?

 

To achieve the highest marks in your exam response, you will need to offer a personal and perceptive interpretation.

 

This means that you need to:

- ask questions of the characters

- think about all of the different ways we might view them - positive and negative

- think about whether they change throughout the musical

- try to evaluate how far we can say they possess a particular characteristic

 

Remember that you will also need to show close analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting a particular character and relate your ideas to the key contextual factors surrounding the musical.

 

In this activity, you will evaluate how each character is presented in 'Blood Brothers'.

 

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

 

To what extent does Russell present Mrs Johnstone as an irresponsible mother?

Russell portrays Mrs Johnstone as an irresponsible mother. She lives beyond her means, ordering things she can't afford. We see how her children are out of control, to the point that 'Sammy burnt the school down'. Indeed, Mrs Johnstone tells Mrs Lyons that 'The welfare have already been on to me.' proving that she is an irresponsible mother

Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone as a loving and caring mother. The way that she 'cradles' Edward 'letting him cry.' shows how affectionate she is. She tells Mrs Lyons 'I love the bones of every one of them.' She is also shown to dream and hope for better things for them, imagining the day that she can 'bring home the dough' and provide her children with 'loads of things to eat'

While Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone with some irresponsible traits, such as spending beyond her means and struggling to control her children, he also shows how loving and caring she is. Mrs Johnstone tells Mrs Lyons' I love the bones of every one of them.' and her affection towards her children proves this, for example when she 'cradles' Edward 'letting him cry.' In addition to this Mrs Johnstone is shown to dream of a better life for her children in 'Oh, bright new day.'

What is the effect of the motif of Marilyn Monroe in Mrs Johnstone's song lyrics?

 

Marilyn Monroe

 

Russell portrays Mrs Johnstone as an irresponsible mother. She lives beyond her means, ordering things she can't afford. We see how her children are out of control, to the point that 'Sammy burnt the school down'. Indeed, Mrs Johnstone tells Mrs Lyons that 'The welfare have already been on to me.' proving that she is an irresponsible mother

Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone as a loving and caring mother. The way that she 'cradles' Edward 'letting him cry.' shows how affectionate she is. She tells Mrs Lyons 'I love the bones of every one of them.' She is also shown to dream and hope for better things for them, imagining the day that she can 'bring home the dough' and provide her children with 'loads of things to eat'

While Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone with some irresponsible traits, such as spending beyond her means and struggling to control her children, he also shows how loving and caring she is. Mrs Johnstone tells Mrs Lyons' I love the bones of every one of them.' and her affection towards her children proves this, for example when she 'cradles' Edward 'letting him cry.' In addition to this Mrs Johnstone is shown to dream of a better life for her children in 'Oh, bright new day.'

How far would you agree that Mrs Lyons is a dislikeable character?

 

Consider the characteristics below and decide whether these make us sympathise with her or not.

 Characteristics that help us sympathise with Mrs Lyons.Characteristics that help present Mrs Lyons as dislikable.
Mrs Lyons dreams of all the things she would have done with her own son.
Mrs Lyons is insecure about how own abilities as a mother.
Mrs Lyons is manipulative and bullies Mrs Johnstone into keeping the truth about the twins a secret.
Mrs Lyons uses money to try to bribe Mrs Johnstone for example to force her to move away.
Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone that she hasn't been able to have her own children.
Mrs Lyons shows Mickey that Edward and Linda are having an affair.
Mrs Lyons tries to kill Mrs Johnstone.

Russell depicts Mrs Lyons as a villain through his use of symbolism

 

Evil cloaked lady holding an apple

 

The audience sees the children singing about her as an evil character in a fairy tale.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows her transformation into a villain.

 Characteristics that help us sympathise with Mrs Lyons.Characteristics that help present Mrs Lyons as dislikable.
Mrs Lyons dreams of all the things she would have done with her own son.
Mrs Lyons is insecure about how own abilities as a mother.
Mrs Lyons is manipulative and bullies Mrs Johnstone into keeping the truth about the twins a secret.
Mrs Lyons uses money to try to bribe Mrs Johnstone for example to force her to move away.
Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone that she hasn't been able to have her own children.
Mrs Lyons shows Mickey that Edward and Linda are having an affair.
Mrs Lyons tries to kill Mrs Johnstone.

Complete the passage below to evaluate the portrayal of the narrator in the musical.  Use your text to help you with this question.

 

devil

 Characteristics that help us sympathise with Mrs Lyons.Characteristics that help present Mrs Lyons as dislikable.
Mrs Lyons dreams of all the things she would have done with her own son.
Mrs Lyons is insecure about how own abilities as a mother.
Mrs Lyons is manipulative and bullies Mrs Johnstone into keeping the truth about the twins a secret.
Mrs Lyons uses money to try to bribe Mrs Johnstone for example to force her to move away.
Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone that she hasn't been able to have her own children.
Mrs Lyons shows Mickey that Edward and Linda are having an affair.
Mrs Lyons tries to kill Mrs Johnstone.

Match the quotations below about Mickey and Edward 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 portrays Edward's lack of understanding ab...
"Mickey: That's why I take them. So I can be invis...
Russell depicts how easy it was for men to turn to...
"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 ...

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 Lyons?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

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

 

Use your text to complete the passage below to explore this further.

 

For the highest marks in the exam, it's important to analyse language techniques closely, by zooming in on individual words and exploring their effect.

 

Column A

Column B

"...but see that he is determined"
The adjective to describe Sammy running away from ...
"...uncontrollable with rage"
Russell's depiction of Edward playing around with ...
"...he mimes firing a gun"
The use of the adjective shows how hard Mickey tri...
"...stands quietly crying"
Russell uses an adjective to describe how angry Mi...
"...Sammy splits out the back"
The repetition of this adjective after the robbery...

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.

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

Task: How far do you sympathise with Mickey's actions in the musical?

  • Question 1

To what extent does Russell present Mrs Johnstone as an irresponsible mother?

CORRECT ANSWER
While Russell depicts Mrs Johnstone with some irresponsible traits, such as spending beyond her means and struggling to control her children, he also shows how loving and caring she is. Mrs Johnstone tells Mrs Lyons' I love the bones of every one of them.' and her affection towards her children proves this, for example when she 'cradles' Edward 'letting him cry.' In addition to this Mrs Johnstone is shown to dream of a better life for her children in 'Oh, bright new day.'
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? The last one is the evaluation because it looks at different sides of Mrs Johnstone's character. The other two explanations only look at Mrs Johnstone from one perspective. Remember also to think about the context and Russell's intentions when evaluating characters. Yes, Mrs Johnstone does sometimes act irresponsibly but Russell doesn't want us to judge her - he wants us to sympathise with her situation by showing his audience how difficult her working-class life is and how hard she's trying to achieve the best for her family, even is she doesn't always succeed. Russell was interested in showing his audience how social class affects someone's life opportunities.
  • Question 2

What is the effect of the motif of Marilyn Monroe in Mrs Johnstone's song lyrics?

 

Marilyn Monroe

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces and use capital letters for the names of the characters? 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 Munroe 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 the 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 3

How far would you agree that Mrs Lyons is a dislikeable character?

 

Consider the characteristics below and decide whether these make us sympathise with her or not.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Characteristics that help us sympathise with Mrs Lyons.Characteristics that help present Mrs Lyons as dislikable.
Mrs Lyons dreams of all the things she would have done with her own son.
Mrs Lyons is insecure about how own abilities as a mother.
Mrs Lyons is manipulative and bullies Mrs Johnstone into keeping the truth about the twins a secret.
Mrs Lyons uses money to try to bribe Mrs Johnstone for example to force her to move away.
Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone that she hasn't been able to have her own children.
Mrs Lyons shows Mickey that Edward and Linda are having an affair.
Mrs Lyons tries to kill Mrs Johnstone.
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? This is a tricky one! Mrs Lyons changes a lot as the play progresses. We first see her as quite a vulnerable character. She hasn't been able to have her own children but is desperate for one. She has dreamt of all the things she would do with her own child. We can certainly sympathise with this aspect of her character. We can also sympathise with her insecurities and her paranoia to a certain extent. She can see the bond that Edward has with Mrs Johnstone but she's so worried about this threatening her own relationship with Edward that her paranoia begins to grow out of control. Gradually, we see her vulnerability changing into something quite sinister and we start to see her as a unlikable character. She's described as 'mad' by the narrator and is presented as a villain. We see her draw a knife on Mrs Johnstone and we see her spitefulness shine through when she shows Mickey the affair between Edward and Linda. The musical ends with the audience seeing a very evil side to Mrs Lyons, perhaps suggesting the overall she is a unlikable character. Of course, the narrator's closing lines asking whether superstition is the cause of the deaths of the boys helps us to understand how Mrs Lyon's fears and superstitious beliefs have been so powerful that they have caused a lot of the devastation in this story.
  • Question 4

Russell depicts Mrs Lyons as a villain through his use of symbolism

 

Evil cloaked lady holding an apple

 

The audience sees the children singing about her as an evil character in a fairy tale.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows her transformation into a villain.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill both spaces? Remember that for the highest marks in the exam, it's important to analyse the writer's techniques. By exploring the symbolism Russell uses, you're analysing the writer's craft. When we're evaluating Mrs Lyon's character, this final symbolism of her as a villain, really presents her as an unlikeable character in the musical. By this point in this musical, just after she has drawn a knife on Mrs Johnstone, we see that Russell depicts her as an evil character who is intent on causing destruction. In the quotation above she has become a symbol of evil in a fairy tale. The children sing this song about her as a warning to not go near this kind of evil. This offers further foreshadowing that her involvement in the story is not complete and that she will cause more devastation in the coming action.
  • Question 5

Complete the passage below to evaluate the portrayal of the narrator in the musical.  Use your text to help you with this question.

 

devil

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces? Remember that for the highest marks in the exam, it's important to analyse the writer's language. For the top marks, it's important to analyse structural techniques as well as language techniques. By analysing the role of the narrator, considering when he makes an entrance and how his language changes as the musical progresses, we are considering some structural elements of Russell's portrayal of this character. Try to analyse structural techniques in your exam response to impress the examiner!
  • Question 6

Match the quotations below about Mickey and Edward 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 7

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 Lyons?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Mrs Lyons is presented as a vulnerable character when she expresses how desperately she wanted to have her own baby. She tells Mrs Johnstone that she 'thought children would come along.' and sings about her dreams of having of her own child, singing about 'the games we'd play' but expressing her devastation when her fantasy is destroyed and 'He fades away.' Russell helps his audience sympathise with Mrs Lyon's desperation here, especially showing how women during the 60s and 70s were expected to be mothers and wives and suffered feelings of failure if they couldn't achieve this. However, Russell also depicts Mrs Lyons with less likeable characteristics, when her desperation leads her to manipulate and bully Mrs Johnstone. We see her cruelly remind Mrs Johnstone through subtle manipulation that 'with two more children how can you possibly avoid some of them being put into care?' When the baby is born, Mrs Lyon's insecurity forces her to essentially blackmail Mrs Johnstone. Her language becomes more forceful and sinister, using imperatives to control Mrs Johnstone and scare her in 'You won't tell anyone about this, Mrs Johnstone, because if you do, you will kill them.' Here, Russell marks the beginning of a change in Mrs Lyons, from a vulnerable character to someone willing to destroy someone else to protect herself.
  • Question 8

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

 

Use your text to complete the passage below to explore this further.

 

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 explores the twin's whole lives from birth to death. Their friendship develops, with Eddie first 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 manic depression that means that he can't be the husband or father he needs to be. Eddie's university education leads to better jobs prospects and enables him to support Linda and Mickey financially. As a result, we 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

For the highest marks in the exam, it's important to analyse language techniques closely, by zooming in on individual words and exploring their effect.

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"...but see that he is determined...
The use of the adjective shows ho...
"...uncontrollable with rage"
Russell uses an adjective to desc...
"...he mimes firing a gun"
Russell's depiction of Edward pla...
"...stands quietly crying"
The repetition of this adjective ...
"...Sammy splits out the back"
The adjective to describe Sammy r...
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Notice how words have been 'zoomed in' on, techniques such as 'adjective' or 'foreshadowing' have been defined and then effects have been explored. For the highest marks in the exam, you need to try to analyse language and structure in this way throughout your response. Try to use as much technical vocabulary as possible to impress the examiner and think about what individual word choices show the audience. This will make for a more detailed analysis.
  • 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.

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

Task: How far do you sympathise with Mickey's actions in the musical?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Whilst Mickey has clearly carried out some punishable actions such as getting involved with the robbery, Russell even depicts these actions in a sympathetic way. Russell intended to show how working class men during the industrial decline in Liverpool suffered the most - there were no jobs and men were desperate. This desperation is depicted through Mickey who makes the decision to get involved in Sammy's robbery, all for 'Fifty quid'. Russell wanted to show how many men like Mickey resorted to crime at this time as a means of earning money, in a time where unemployment was at an all time high. Russell ensures we view Mickey sympathetically when he depicts the regret that Mickey has in making such a bad decision that leads to such devastating consequences. Russell's repetition of the adjective 'crying' in the stage directions highlights that Mickey is still just a child. When we see that he is 'placed in a prison cell' and he 'stands quietly crying.' Russell highlights his vulnerability and depicts him as a victim of social class. Russell also portrays the depression that many working class men suffered with. Mickey says he takes antidepressants 'So I can be invisible.' which forces the audience to sympathise with Mickey's sad situation and his inability to cope with everything life has thrown at him. Russell presents Mickey sympathetically to show that he is a victim of a society that forgets about the working class and rewards the middle class. Great focus, you've completed another activity!
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