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How Does Willie Change and Develop as a Character in the Play ‘Hobson’s Choice’ Unfolds

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‘Hobson’s Choice’ was first performed in 1915 and was written by Harold Brighouse. At this time the social class structure in Britain was very strict, and this provides the basis on which this book is based. For example, people with a lot of money who could afford private education by governesses were counted as upper-class. Prosperous tradesmen for example were middle class. The less fortunate people who were poor and who had to work manually to make a living, to look after their families, were the working class. Some people were usually from workhouses and orphanages which is what made them the lowest of the low. Working class were never expected to achieve anything beyond their own class, although a new class in society (called the ‘nouveau riche’) was already emerging. This was where industrialists had up made money in business and had married into a class above them. The industrialists needed the social approval that marrying into the class gave them, and the upper class needed the money. In this story, Willie’s father was from a workhouse so Willie is thought of as a worker who will never achieve anything higher than his work in the cellar. This was proved not to be the case further on in the story where Willie married Maggie and became a prosperous tradesman like Maggie’s father Mr. Hobson.

In the beginning of the book, Willie is Hobson’s best boot-hand, making boots for Hobson’s clients. He is shy and lacks self-confidence. When we first see him, he is called out of his cellar by Maggie. We know he is very good at the job because Mrs. Hepworth- an upper class woman- wants to meet the person who has made her boots. When Willie appears, he has a frightened look on his face. This could suggest that he gets told off a lot. We learn that Willie is not very well educated and finds things hard to read, e.g. the italics on the card that Mrs.Hepworth gives him. This is shown when Willie is asked if he can understand it. His reply is “I do a bit. Only it’s such a funny print.” In the film, when we see Willie come up out of his hole we can see by his facial expressions that he is wary and quite frightened. When he tries to read the Italics we can see again by his facial expressions that he struggles to read the print.

When Maggie later tells Willie he is going to marry her, he is a bit shocked as he does not love Maggie and thinks it is not right to marry the master’s daughter because of the difference in class. This demonstrates the working class attitude to class as they were taught their place from birth. The readers/audience are immediately made to feel sorry for Willie as he is being forced to marry someone he does not love.

In the film, Maggie asked Willie to meet her in the park for their first date. He wasn’t very excited by it, he was in fact quite nervous as if you go out together it is usually a sign that you are in fact in love with each other. It is here at the park where Willie declares he is not in fact in love with Maggie. He also tells her there is someone else whom he is in love with, Ada Figgins. Maggie goes to see Ada and her mother and starts to tell them about her future plans to build a partnership with Willie, as he is good at making the boots and Maggie is good at selling them. Willie’s attitude changes at this point. This is shown by his eyes widening.

In the book, Ada comes to see Willie as she brings his lunch to him. When she comes in the shop, Maggie starts to tell her about her and Willie’s plans. It is here where we notice that Willie is reluctant to marry Maggie as he asks Ada to fight for him.

In the book, Hobson finds out about Willie and Maggie’s engagement and is infuriated. He then leaves the kitchen to try and find Willie to carry out his threat.

“but I can leather him”. Willie doesn’t like the idea of being hit with a leather strap and declares he doesn’t want Maggie but Maggie wants him. Hobson then beats him again. Willie then threatens to kiss Maggie and then, if he hits him again, leave with her. Hobson does hit Willie again and Willie carries out his threat.

In the film, the same thing happened, but this time, we as the audience could actually see it happening. The fact that he’s being hit makes us feel sorry for him as he didn’t love Maggie and was only doing as he’s told, and because of that, he’s being beaten. When Hobson hits Willie for the second and third time, we can see that he’s become braver as he has the sense of anger in his eyes which we can see in the film. He then storms out of the shop with Maggie.

The next change we see in Willie is at his wedding. Maggie says

“Sithee, Will, I’ve a respect for church. Yon’s not the place for lies. The parson’s going to ask you will you have me and you’ll either answer truthfully or not at all. If you’re not willing, just say so now, and -“

Willie then says he’ll say “yes”.

This shows that his feelings towards Maggie have changed. This is also supported when he tells Maggie that “she’s growing on him”.

After their wedding, Maggie, Willie, Alice, Vickey, Albert Prosser and Freddie Beenstock go to Willie’s shop in the cellar in Oldfield Road. This is where we can see a big change in Willie. He has become more self confident and has been educated by Maggie to speak well. This is shown in his speech even though he stutters a little and Maggie has to prompt him. Albert then goes to make a speech, but Alice stops him and tells him to sit down.

“Sit down. We’ve had enough of speeches-“

Albert then insists that they have to thank him. Alice then says

“I dare say. But you’ll not speak as well as he did, so we can”

This shows that everyone else was impressed with him and that his speech is starting to become better than theirs.

We can tell Willie’s self-confidence has risen as he acts as the master of the house when Mr. Hobson arrives to ask Maggie for advice. Maggie tells Mr. Hobson to talk to Willie as he is the head of the household. Willie then starts thinking about ideas to help Hobson. Hobson then starts to get a bit angry, but then Maggie tells him to calm down. Mr. Hobson doesn’t like the idea of getting advice from Willie as he used to be his boot-hand. However Willie does act more confidently to Hobson calling him ‘father’, but it is still Maggie who is in control of all situations.

When Maggie asks him to come to bed, he is reluctant to do so. In the film he is shown sitting by the fire and he eventually has the courage to go in with Maggie. This shows a bit of a change in Willie as he is now not as frightened as he used to be although still reluctant about his marriage.

In the play, Maggie had to come out of the bedroom, take Willie by the ear and drag him into the room. This shows that Willie is still a bit frightened as he doesn’t want to go in the bedroom with Maggie. He only goes in there when he is dragged.

The last and final change we see in Willie is when Mr. Hobson becomes ill. In both the book and the film, Maggie and Willie go round to Hobson’s shop to talk to him and make him an offer. Willie enters and acts as though he is a bold, successful tradesman. When they see Mr. Hobson, they find Alice and Vickey there. Mr. Hobson asks Alice and Vickey to stay, but they declare that they can’t stay as they have other engagements. This makes Hobson disown them and tell them to go home. The only people who will stay are Willie and Maggie, but only if Hobson agrees to let Willie work at the shop.

At first Hobson agrees as he thinks Willie is coming back to work as his boot-maker, and when Hobson says he’ll pay Willie his old wage, Willie tells Hobson that it’s not his old job he wants back, he wants to split the contract for the shop between them. Willie suggests naming the shop ‘Willie Mossop’s late Hobson’s’. Neither Maggie nor Hobson agree to this. Eventually they come to an agreement of ‘Mossop’s and Hobson’s’. When Maggie and Willie go to exit, Willie talks about how nervous he was and asked Maggie whether he sounded confident. Maggie told him he was and that she was proud of him. Willie is very successful in what he does. His boots are very good and lots of people like them, including the upper class. The other thing that made Willie’s business so successful was Maggie. Not only did she sell the boots at a good price, but she also taught him how to be successful by increasing his self-confidence and boldness. This is how he eventually manages to stand up to Mr. Hobson and become his partner in business.

We can tell by this scene that Willie has grown all the way through the play, and has been able to climb the ladder of class and become ‘Master of Hobson’s, which very rarely happened in real life. Maggie has also taught him to be self-confident and proud, which is what made him a real rival to Hobson. His original work was making boots for Mr. Hobson at 16 shillings a week, but now he runs his own shop and has a partnership with Hobson to share his shop half and half. This is a big difference from what he originally did. Willie’s life has also gone round in a circle. He started off a poor, working class citizen, then he moved to a shop and then finally came back to his original workplace but as the boss. I think that Maggie helped Willie a lot. She taught him how to speak well and how do dress properly. She also taught him to stand up for himself, but if he didn’t have it in him, he wouldn’t have been able to this. Maggie also helped him on his way to having a successful business. Without her, Willie would never have been what he is by the end of the play.

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