Russell has ensured that from the outset Mrs. Lyons’ and Mrs. Johnstone’s behavior, and the respect they show for other people, are noticeably different. Middle class Mrs. Lyons speaks to people in Standard English and shows respect for other people. When she asks ‘Hello Mrs. J. How are you?’ she is very polite to her cleaner, asking after her, but also being over familiar with her, shortening her name and being condescending about her superstitions and ‘piles.’ Her working class parallel, Mrs. Johnston, however, speaks to people with a lack of respect, using non-Standard English. She is disrespectful to most people she talks to, asking the tradesman rudely ‘What are you doing here? The milk bill is not due till Thursday?’ which reveals that she has no respect for anyone.Order now
The parents’ behavior will, the audience understands influence the behavior of their children to demonstrate respect, or lack of respect, for people. As children, Sammy and Mickey are clearly influenced by their mother. ‘Mother…will y’ open the bleedin’ door or what?’ (Mickey) Mickey sits, bored, looking at the ants on the pavement (Stage directions describing Mickey playing on his own) I’m just thinkin’…you’ve not had much of a life with me, have y’?’ (Mrs. J to Mickey) Edward is similarly influenced by his mother, he is brought up to have respect for people and speak using Standard English (although sometimes his language changes when he is around Mickey), ‘Don’t you know what a dictionary is?
(Edward) ‘I…My mum says I haven’t got to play with you.’ (Edward). As teenagers, we continue to see the contrast ion the boys’ behavior that has been brought about by their class origins, and speedily realize that this will have an effects on their work lives. Edward enters in a duffle coat and college scarf, unseen by Mickey. (Stage directions)’Why…why is a job so important? If I couldn’t get a job I’d just say, sod e…’ (Edward)I’ve got money, plenty of it.’ (Edward) ‘while no one was looking, I grew up. An’ you didn’t, because you didn’t need to…’ (Mickey to Edward) ‘I didn’t sort anythin’ out Linda. Not a job, not a house, nothin’. When Mickey grows up he changes a lot and does not want to be friends with Edward anymore. Edward doesn’t really grow up into a teenager, he wants to stay a child and play kiddy games he ‘had to grow up’ but Mickey refuses.
In the musical all the key characters are treated differently by other characters as a direct comment on the respect commanded by their class. Mrs Johnston is treated horribly by people like the milkman, catalogue man and the policeman, and the way they treat her is almost certainly because of her social class: ‘Listen love, I’m up to here with hard luck stories,’ shows that she gets treated with a total lack of respect, because she never pays her money. The catalogue man also says, with little respect ‘I’m sorry love, especially at a time like this, but you are twelve weeks behind in your payments.’ pressuring her for money she doesn’t have….
In their turn, sons Mickey and Edward get treated differently as well, for example Mickey and Edward’s schools, teachers speak to them contrastingly. ‘Am I to have you flogged?’ at the Lyons school shows that at Edward’s teachers take him seriously and punish any minor thing, dealing with him severely to prepare him for his influential middle class adult life. Mickey, at his state school, is spoken to disrespectfully – ‘shut up’ – with no manners, suggesting he will be ill prepared for adult life and had no one to model good manners for him.
The most noticeable event which shows how class affects the treatment of the families is the manner in which the policeman treats the boys and their parents differently – it is implied because they have different backgrounds. The Policeman knows that Mickey’s poor family have been involved with the police before and knows what to expect from him, but he has never had to deal with Edward’s family and knows they are considerably influential people.
Consequently, the policeman speaks harshly to Mrs. Johnston, ‘You don’t wanna end up in court again, do y’?’ which shows he has no respect for her and her family as they are trouble and have been involved in many other incidents. ‘An err, as I say, it was more of a prank really, Mr. Lyons… Make sure he keeps with his own kind!’ he says to the Lyons family, with respect as he does not normally have any trouble with them and they have never been involved with the police before. This shows that because of there class they have not got in trouble before and that Mickey’s class have.
Russell uses the stage a lot dividing it into middle class and working class so that the audience can see the difference; he uses it so the audience can see the families’ different houses, and the conditions inside them. The first thing the audience will notice is that Mrs Johnstone’s house in on the opposite side to Mrs Lyons – they are carefully separated so you can see the difference in their social classes. This is possible because the Labour Party – where the Johnston house is sited at the bottom from the audience’s view – has the left side and they represent the working class, whilst the Conservatives are on the right, above, representing the middle classes. Russell has separated the two classes on stage so that it will help the audience to tell the difference between them and to recognise the key differences class has made.
Every time any two characters enter the stage, the middle class will be on the right, above, and the working class on the left, below. Additionally, looking at the presentation of the Lyons house is clean and expensive, with a lot of furniture and possessions inside this shows because of there middle class and they can afford to have expensive furniture unlike Mrs. Johnston. We don’t ever see the inside Mrs Johnstone’s house but the outside shows that it’s dirty with furniture being removed, it is also very small compared to the Lyons house as we learn in the song My Child, this use of props stresses the difference in social class.
The props are also very different for each family: again, in My Child ‘A bike with both wheels on?’ reveals that Mrs Johnston is surprised because Edward is going to have what we would see as a normal childhood possession – revealing the extent of her poverty, this is influential because of her giving up Edward in the first place. The costumes and props that both classes use are effective because they both have props and costumes to match there class.
All Social classes are different depending on the language, mannerisms, clothing, education, and behavior. This play shows that two very similar people can change and become very different from each other; they can grow up in the same area but live completely different lifestyles and have very different attitudes. Willy Russell uses 1950s Liverpool as a setting as there was an extreme difference between class and wealth, whether rich or poor you will always grow up in different lifestyles. Russell wanted to show how people from different social classes have different life experiences by showing two boys which are very similar and turn out to be the opposite of each other.