Mrs Johnstone is portrayed as a stereotypical working class mother. In the introductory song, Russell uses Mrs Johnstone to create this stereotype. “We got married at the Registry an’ then we had a ‘do” Mentioning the Registry, Russell is trying to show that working class people are unable to fund a wedding in a church. Also, using the term ‘do’ Russell is exemplifying the language that people of a working class background use, unlike somebody of upper class who would probably use the term ‘wedding reception. ‘ However, Mrs Johnstone proves she is aspiring to be Upper Class when Russell uses her opinions of an upper class lifestyle. We all had curly salmon sandwiches. ” Mrs Johnstone, like all stereotypical working class people thinks that salmon sandwiches make them look as if they were upper class. Also, the reference to the “curl” of the sandwiches implies that they have been made and were prepared much earlier, which once again conveys their social class. Also, on the wedding theme, “An’ how the ale did flow”, this shows how poorly these people’s expectations are. At a stereotypical wedding, people drink wine, or Champagne, but because of lack of money, and the rush to get married due to the pregnancy of Mrs Johnstone, the guests drink ale.
Also, this suggests that all the friends at the wedding reception, or “do” are working class people. Another theme that emphasises how desperately poor the Johnstones are, is the theme of friendship and love, linked between Eddie, Mickey and Linda and how they are all friends, but it gradually brakes apart, Mickey and Linda’s friendship develops into love, and Mickey and Eddie’s friendship firstly breaks up when Eddie is forced to move away by his parents, then again later in the play when Mickey becomes depressed he begins to become jealous of Eddie, again leading up to the tragic consequences.
This jealousy is brought upon by class difference. Mickey has no money, therefore he is unable to care for his wife and child, therefore must turn to other ways of getting money, like turning to crime for example. Mickey participates in a crime with his elder brother Sammy, which leads to him being put in prison. During his sentence, he suffers from severe depression and turn to medication. When he returns home after years of imprisonment, he is faced with Linda trying to persuade him to stop taking the drugs.
He becomes frustrated and angry with her pleading, which shows how weak and vulnerable people living in poverty are in such desperate conditions. He was imprisoned for helping his brother in a heist that would award him with ? 50. This is an excellent example of an effective contrast between the upper and working classes. ?50 is a very small sum of money, it just conveys how poor and desperate Mickey is, and also links with the friendship and love theme, but mainly, this is social class differences.
Mickey’s determination to provide for his family is incredible; he will do ANYTHING to care for his family, and shows the reader just how similar different social classes are: they both want to care for their families. The audience clearly recognises how wealthy Edward’s family is, and that he does not have to worry about his needs, like the Johnstones. However, the Lyons’ might be well-off, but the question that arises with this family is; whether it is a family at all. At the beginning of the play, Mrs Johnstone gives one of her twins in order to keep her other children.
Mrs Lyons uses her dominant role as an employer, and as an upper class citizen to exploit Mrs Johnstone’s situation as a desperate single mother of many children. Also, due to her lack of education (presumably) Mrs Johnstone is very religious, and extremely superstitious. This is probably due to her lack of money; therefore she must turn to superstition and religion for support. The reader is assured of these ideas when the audience is informed that her husband has left her, this is also a reason for her to turn to religion.
It all comes down to her social class in the hierarchy of society. This is made clear in the song “Marilyn Monroe”. She sings of how she met a man that told her she looks like Marilyn Monroe, and then gets her pregnant. They have several more children, and then marry. He leaves her after saying that she looks “a bit like Marilyn Monroe”. This wraps the idea of social class into a neat bow, for the stereotype of working class men is for them to aspire to marry a nice looking woman, long legs etc.
Therefore Mrs Johnstone fell into a false sense of love due to her class status, and ended up alone and vulnerable. Her children seem to be re-living history when Linda and Mickey break up after Eddie’s return from university. Overall, I believe that social class is the main theme in the play, and that Willy Russell has presented the theme very effectively. The two different families living in such a close distance from each other allows the audience to see the extremely varied lifestyles of higher and lower class living.