Hobson’s choice was written in 1914-15 by Harold Brighouse, as a method to raise the morale of troops during the First World War. Many aspects of Brighouses’ unconventional childhood shows through in a lot of characters – Maggie in particular – as he explores many issues that would have occurred in the heart of nineteenth century Salford. He examines many real life crisis’ in this comedy play and he spectacularly shows how bigger deal image and reputation was to people at the time when the play was set. Henry Horatio Hobson was an immensely patriotic, middle class working man, who lived in Salford, Manchester, during the early 1800’s.Order now
He had an extremely definite idea on he believed the perfect family should entail, and he worked very hard to make sure that his three daughters – Maggie, 30; Alice, 23; Vickey, 21 – were raised into a respectable family. He very much wanted the people of Salford ( his daughters included ) to believe that he was a hard working business man, who ran his home with a firm hand, but his efforts – and money – were in vain, as he spent most hours of the day at the “Moonrakers” Inn Pub, getting unbelievably drunk and falling into neighbours cellars.
Hobson became increasingly worried after he fell down Mr Beenstocks cellar around noon one day. He was extremely drunk and was really concerned that his actions would affect the business’ trade. “My good class customers are not going to buy their boots from a man who has stood up in open court” says Hobson, after receiving a fake court order for trespassing. During the 1800’s, a court order would have been considered very serious and Hobson would have lost a lot of customers if the trespassing fine was real. Nowadays, people are a lot less bothered about the person running the shop and their personal life.
Whereas in the 1800’s, Hobson’s reputation would have been in tatters, these days, it eould take a lot more than a court order, for a shop to lose customers. Hobson was also worried about losing customers, when he saw his two youngest daughters wearing “humps”. Hobson described his daughters as “immodest”, “un-English” and said that they looked like “French madams”. Humps were actually considered acceptable if you were in a higher class, but if you were middle class, like Hobson and his daughters, then it was totally unheard of to be seen wearing them.
Hobson was very concerned that his daughters wearing unacceptable clothes, would give people the wrong image, and would scare away customers. Fellow businessmen have very little respect for Hobson, who very rarely did even half a days honest work, and yet he was their biggest business threat, stealing all the high class customers, with exceptionally made boots. Mrs Hepworth is particular, was a well-respected high class woman, who many shops fought to have her step through their doors. For Hobson however, she was a regular customer, who he treated like a Queen.
Mrs Hepworth, was not served in the shop like other middle class customers. She was shown through to Hobson’s own living room, where stage directions prove how differently higher-class citizens were treated. Stage directions quote: “Hobson kneeling and fondling her foot”. This stagecraft shows us that he gives a lot more care to his higher-class customers. This was deemed socially acceptable during the 1800’s, as Mrs Hepworth was very much above Hobson on the social ladder. It was also considered okay for her to tell Hobson to “Get up.
You look ridiculous on the floor” because even though man were technically considered above women concerning rights and social status, a woman of a higher-class, such as Mrs Hepworth, was definitely regarded as above man of a lower class, such as Hobson. That is why Maggie’s marriage to Will, was totally socially unacceptable at the time. Their marriage was extremely unconventional, because not only did the woman propose to the man, but she did so to a man in a lower social class than she was. Not only was this just not done, Maggie was also 30 years old, which, in the 1800’s would have been considered too old for marriage.
Will Mossop did not protest to the marriage, which just proved that women of a higher-class were always more worthy and correct, than a man of a lower class, even if you were going to marry them. Will felt intimidated by Maggie’s social superiority, as he was in a lower working class than she was. Hobson was a very proper and nationalistic 55-year old. He worshipped the Queen and her husband, and had pictures of them in his living room. Hobson described himself, as “I’m a decent-minded man. I’m Hobson. I’m British middle-class and proud of it”.
This is slightly ironic, as he spends most days at the pub and doesn’t really earn a decent, honest living. Although he is telling his daughters how to behave, he is not exactly the best example and even though he is telling his children that he is a good man, it is like he is also trying to reassure himself of the fact. Throughout the play, Hobson’s character becomes weaker and weaker, and he begins to care less about his image. Maggie however has broken all conventions of the time by marrying Will, who, in return, has been taught by Maggie and has increased self-esteem and courage.
At the end of the play, image became very important to Will, when choosing shop names. He wanted to make sure that he was in charge and in control of the decision. “Mossop and Hobson or its Oldfield Road for us Maggie” he says. This shows us that men were very much above their wives, and they made all the decisions in the household. Overall I believe that image and reputation were considered a lot more important in the 1800’s than what they are today. Things were very particular in those days, and I for one, are very glad that image has become less of an issue in every day life.