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Violence as a Central theme in Blood Brothers

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Violence is a central theme in the play. Discuss this theme with close reference to the play. (20) Contextually, the play ‘Blood Brothers’ was written by Willy Russell and is set in the 1980s in Thatcher’s Britain and is a social commentary of the ways in which different social classes were treated in the early 1980s, where money was short and families were considerably larger than you would expect to see today. The story is told through the voice of the omnipresent narrator, who is presented as an especially pivotal character, a manifestation of one of the visible themes in Blood Brothers – the idea that life is a game. Notably, he treats the characters as players of his game, manipulating their lives and playing off their superstitious beliefs. A Brechtian style is explored through the Narrator to make the audience reflect on unravelling themes and to unmask the naturalism of society at the time.

The narrator is important within the play as he shows the movement and progression of time, ‘when you’re sweet sixteen.’ ‘At seventeen.’ Throughout the play, Russell explores various themes through the characters, the main being the differences in social classes and the effects on the lives of the characters. Although superstition, fate and violence, are presented as themes, the political message of the play seems to be saying that it is real-world forces that shape people’s lives. Analytically, we first notice the violence within the play from the title ‘Blood Brothers,’ which instantly portrays a dark, violent feel to the play whilst also foreshadowing further events – when Edward and Mickey bond, ‘it’s Eddie my blood brother.’ Throughout the play, violence is often shown through the narrator, who is shown to have the ability to foreshadow future events, ‘how they were born and they died on the self-same day.’

This reference to death represents the darkness and violence within the play. The play both begins and ends with the death of the twins; this represents the cycle of the play. Russell also uses cycles to represent violence, ‘a bike with both wheels on?’ This is seemingly innocent, however, it can be argued that it represents the vicious cycle in which Mrs Johnstone is trapped in – she’s ‘livin on the never never’ however she feels that she will be able to escape and sees it as being ‘only a sign of the times.’ Noticeably, the violence shown in the ‘cowboys and Indians’ scene represents the youthful nature of these children, as they are unaware of the consequences that acts of violence and crime bring with them, they are led to believe that life is ‘just a game’ and that ‘you can get up off the ground again.’ This scene represents the undercurrent of violence that stems throughout the play, ‘the shooting starts all over again.’

Within this fantasy scene, the toy guns the children are using become bombs, a more destructive weapon which results in more and more people becoming ‘killed.’ This could suggest that the children do in fact understand the consequences of violence; however they have a naïve attitude towards them and choose to ignore reality. Debatably, Mickey’s violent nature can be put down to Sammy’s progression of violence, something that is recognised by all the surrounding characters ‘predict a sharp drop in the crime rate.’ At the beginning of the play, he is shown to have simply a toy gun; however this progresses throughout to become a real gun. Mickey looks up to his older brother for inspiration and when he sees that Sammy has a weapon, he wants one for himself. Young Mickey is shown to be messing about with Linda and Edward with an air pistol ‘Mickey takes aim and fires’ – where the three of them commit their first act of violence.

However, Russell believed that a child’s access to weapons such as guns has no influence on their aggressive behaviour, as he once said ‘I am just not convinced that banning toy guns will do anything towards curbing the aggression in children.’ Within the Narrator’s song that shows a quick progression and ages the children to seventeen, the Narrator makes a vivid reference to the end of the book, ‘who’d dare tell the lambs in spring,’ not only does this represent the secrecy between Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, but it also represents the slaughtering of animals – foreshadowing the morose deaths of Mickey and Edward at the end of the play. It can be argued that the final scene in the play contains the most violence within the play.

This is not only because of the obvious – the deaths of both Mickey and Edward, but also because of the events running up to it, which also portray violence. When Mickey first storms in he demands that Edward should ‘stay where you are,’ this aggressive, chaotic behaviour he creates is a stark contrast to the calm, formal atmosphere that Edward was shown to have control over just moments ago and also shows similarities to the ways in which Sammy has been portrayed throughout the play. Mickey wants to ‘be like our Sammy.’ Conclusively, the theme of violence is contemporaneous throughout the play, whether it is directly or just an undercurrent. Russell uses violence to mirror society at this time as a whole, ‘just another sign of the times.’

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