I think that one of the reasons that the tragedy occurs is superstition and fate, which are some of the powerful driving forces behind the movement of the plot. An example of this is the ‘coincidental’ re-housing of Mrs Johnstone to the same village as Mrs Lyons moved to in order to get away from her, a coincidental event that meant that the tragedy was able to occur. The first example in the play is the superstition that you must “never put new shoes on the table”. Coming from a working class background Mrs Johnstone believes in such superstitions (though she denies it “I’m not superstitious”) while Mrs Lyons laughs at the idea.
However, moments later Mrs Lyons gives an example of how she herself is superstitious, by telling Mrs Johnstone to swear on the holy bible. This is a more upper class superstition. As Mrs Lyons’ mental health deteriorates her paranoia drives her to be far more superstitious and when shoes are placed on the table for the second time in the play “she rushes at the table and sweeps them off”. Also she fears “gypsies in the wood” that will try and take her baby away and her paranoia creates a ‘bogey man’ that is always watching her ready to snatch her child and always following her around.
The role of the bogey man is filled, to an extent, by the narrator who, throughout the play enforces the idea of superstition and that Mrs Lyons’ reckoning will come. He does this my using dramatic music and singing songs about “the salt’s been spilled” and “someone broke the looking glass” (mirror). This also keeps reminding us that fate and superstition are steering the play towards a tragic end. The third strong female character is Linda who, in a way, acts as a bridge between the two classes, between the two brothers throughout the play.
Even when they were young Linda was a much stronger character than the brothers being the only one to stand up to Sammy, “Leave him alone” And also, when Mickey has “missed” and Eddie has “missed” Linda was the only one to hit the target, physically and mentally. At the beginning it is the simple ways that Linda’s character is stronger than Mickey’s but as the play progresses we see her stand up to the teacher for him, “Leave off him you big worm” And eventually, after Mickey has come out of prison, she supports him through his depression, and while he needs his pills, “I need me pills”.
This shows that she has deep feelings for him and because of her strong character she is able to support him. However, when Mickey was too weak to stop taking his pills she is unable to stick with him and she goes to Eddie whom she “always loved as mush as Mickey”. After Mrs Lyons reveals the relationship between Eddie and Linda to Mickey (which is ironic because it led to the death of her ‘adopted’ son) their relationship leads to the final scene in which the ‘Blood Brothers’ die. This completes the circle and the play ends as it began, just like Greek tragedies.
At the end of the play the role of Linda is very important because she symbolises the future of the working classes. As the young survivor she is the hope that makes the end not entirely tragic and is the only key character that is able to walk away and move on after the deaths of the two brothers. This is an important feature because it means that the audience will appreciate that even after the greatest tragedy hope lives on. Overall, Willy Russell made the women characters strong, powerful, determined and in Mrs Lyons’ case, manipulative compared to the males who were weak (not physically but mentally) gullible naive and immature.
This is very similar to another of Willy Russell’s plays, Shirley Valentine. I think that the women characters are made stronger as a reflection on Willy Russell’s childhood, where he had a very strong matriarchal figure, represented by Mrs Johnstone and an absent father figure, represented by Mr Johnstone. Another thing I saw was that although Mrs Lyons was rich and middle class she is a much crueller and more manipulative than the poorer, working class people.
This shows that being a higher class does not make you a better person and is included because Willy Russell had a working class background. Willy Russell uses ideas from literature such as Shakespeare and from Greek tragedy, he also manipulates the plot using ironic twists, such as the fact that Mrs Lyons told Mickey about eddy and Linda’s relationship and that in turn led to her son’s death. In some ways these ironies add to the tragedy. On the other hand, it is Mrs Johnstone who suffers the most after the tragedy which is slightly fitting, as she is arguably the best at coping through adversity and tragedy.