Edward is the twin taken away from his biological mother and brought up as part of the wealthy Lyons family. He is an only child and is the focus of his mother’s attention, as his father is often absent due to working. Edward is a warm and kind boy, who enjoys interacting with other children. When he meets Mickey at the age of seven, he is excited by his new friend’s rebelliousness. He is drawn to Mrs Johnstone, who is very different to his own mother.
As a teenager, Edward is a loyal friend. He puts Mickey’s feelings before his own, encouraging Mickey to ask Linda to be his girlfriend even though Edward has feelings for her himself. When he is older, Edward is able to draw away a little from his overprotective mother and become more independent, spending as much of his time as he can with Mickey and Linda.
When he is 18, Edward goes to Oxford University, putting him on the path to becoming successful – as an adult he is . He lacks understanding of Mickey’s feelings when he is made redundant because he cannot empathise with his situation. When he is older, he helps Linda find Mickey a job and helps them find a family home. However, he also starts an affair with Linda, leading to the final tragedy.
How is Edward like this?
When he meets Mickey, Edward is happy to share his sweets with his new friend.
Edward is warm and generous with Mickey, sharing his sweets freely. This also draws attention to the differences between the boys. Edward is not used to being around other children, so he is not as suspicious as Mickey. As his parents are wealthy, Edward is more relaxed with sharing his possessions.
[Trying to work out the catch; suspiciously taking one.] Can I have another one. For our Sammy?
Yes, of course. Take as many as you want.
How is Edward like this?
Edward quickly becomes fond of Mrs Johnstone and has a connection with her.
Edward is very animated with Mrs Johnstone and responds enthusiastically as soon as she is kind to him. He keeps the locket she gives him a secret for as long as he can, suggesting that once he forms a connection with someone he is loyal.
How is Edward like this?
Edward cannot understand Mickey’s frustration when he is made redundant. The way he reacts is thoughtless.
Edward is inconsiderate of Mickey’s feelings and makes light of the serious situation his friend is in. He shows no empathy towards Mickey as he cannot understand how difficult life for Mickey is without having a comfortably off middle-class family to fall back on - which Edward has.
Analysing the evidence
How does Russell present Edward’s closeness with Mickey?
- Edward emphasises the differences between him and Mickey, which is what draws him to his new friend.
- Edward leads a very restricted life as his mother is overprotective, so he is envious of Mickey’s freedom and more relaxed childhood. This leads to him wanting to spend a lot of time with Mickey and admiring Mrs Johnstone as a mother figure.
My best friend, he could swear like a soldier.
You would laugh till you died at the stories he told y'.
He was untidy from Monday to Friday
I wish that I could be like
Kick a ball and climb a tree like
Run around with dirty knees like my friend.
She is 25 years old at the start of the play and has already had seven children. This suggests that she has a naturally maternal character, embracing new life and being a caring person. Russell might also be hinting at religious rulings against contraception.
Often she makes rash decisions on impulse rather than thinking carefully over the consequences of her actions. For example, she buys lots of items from a catalogue on credit despite knowing she probably won’t be able to pay for them later.
She has a strong, generous character knowing almost instinctively what’s right and wrong, although her circumstances make it hard for her to be a straightforwardly ‘good’ person. She refuses Mrs Lyons’ attempts to bribe her showing that she values people above money, yet she does agree under extreme pressure to give Mrs Lyons one of her children. This is suggested to be largely unselfish because she is shown only to have concern for the child, foreseeing a more comfortable life for him.
She is naturally a kind and loving mother and finds it hard to discipline her children and keep them under control. When Sammy burns the school down instead of scolding him she casually jokes that it was the school’s fault for letting ‘the silly gets play with magnesium’.
She is uneducated and does not value intellectual or academic pursuits. This is probably why she is superstitious, something which causes her to believe the twins’ curse and be terrified into following Mrs Lyons’ desires. It also means she lacks concern for the education of her children, taking little interest when either Mickey or Sammy are suspended from school.
She is lively and has a zest for life. This can be clearly seen in her love of dancing, but also in her general attitude, which could almost be said to be happy-go-lucky. She follows her instincts, believing them to be her best guide through life.
She has a fatalistic attitude: ‘what will be will be’. She does not really concern herself with causes or explanations of the events in her life, instead accepting them as they happen. She rejoices in her relocation by the council for example, but does not wonder how this occurred – to her, it is merely the work of fate’s lucky hand.
She is poor and trapped by poverty. This makes it very difficult for her to care for her children and is ultimately the reason that she gives Edward away to Mrs Lyons. Russell suggests that she is old before her time (remember that she is only in her mid-twenties at the start of the play) and has had to sacrifice any youthful enjoyment for the life she has.