Mickey is created by Russell to be a friendly, excitable boy in Act One. He likes to play adventure games with others and sneak off to pull pranks. He looks up to his older brother Sammy and often feels like a cast-off in comparison to him. He feels the need to impress Sammy and finds it hard to say no to him. Later in the play this will influence him into helping in Sammy’s crime. He is very shy about his emotions and takes years to ask Linda out even on a date. He finds it hard to tell Linda that he loves her. He tries to prove himself to her through working hard but becomes even more withdrawn after becoming unemployed. He is energetic, bright and witty, but not very well educated. He does not show interest in his schooling and gets suspended for ridiculing his teacher. He is more interested in getting a job. He likes Edward’s generosity and, in turn, enjoys being able to show him new things. Edward gives Mickey a chance to shine and be a leader and escape the oppression he feels from his brother, school and general poverty.
Mrs Johnstone Introduction
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’.
Mrs Johnstone Introduction
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.
She is presented by Russell as a lonely housewife, with a cold character who finds it difficult to be affectionate towards others. This may be her natural personality, but circumstances certainly haven’t helped: she and her husband are unable to have children naturally and her husband spends long periods at work away from home.
She is wealthy, but dependent upon her successful businessman husband’s income. She doesn’t work or do the housework. She hires Mrs Johnstone to do the cleaning for her, while she shops for expensive things. Russell creates this character as an inconsiderate, pampered but dependent individual.
She is a self-centred character who uses others for her own gain. Once Mrs Johnstone has handed over Edward, she no longer needs her and cruelly discards her, manipulating her through preying on her uneducated and superstitious mind.
She is an over-protective mother, who is always anxious about Edward, and tries to keep him in the house or garden away from Mickey because she doesn’t want him ‘mixing with boys like that’.She is shown to be overcome by anxieties and suspicions in later scenes, which Russell suggests are the results of excessive loneliness and a loveless life. She becomes unreasonable and is possibly mad when she attacks Mrs Johnstone.
Edward is presented by Russell as a friendly, generous character. He searches out Mickey to play with and perhaps naively offers him sweets in an attempt to impress him. He joins in with Mickey and Linda’s games and unselfishly tries to get Mickey to express his love for Linda.
He is raised in a middle-class home and is educated at a private school. He feels restricted and this is one of the reasons he likes the company of Mickey. He revels in Mickey’s liveliness, bad language and risky games.
He is shown to be an impulsive character and one who doesn’t think too deeply about the consequences of his actions. This can be seen in the way he rashly mocks the policeman in the first act and has an affair with Linda in the second.
He seems to lack compassion and does not sympathise with Mickey’s plight. Instead, he tells Mickey to use his dole money to live like a ‘Bohemian’. Later, he arranges for Mickey to have a job, but does so condescendingly by keeping it secret.
She is presented by Russell as naturally kind and compassionate character. She comes to Mickey’s aid both when he is suspended from school and when he is mocked by the other children.
She is quite feisty and humorous, joining Edward and Mickey in their games and often leading the way. For example, she plays a trick on a policeman so that the three of them can run away.
Linda is strong-willed and very supportive of Mickey. She tries to protect him and keeps pushing him to give up his drugs.
Linda is from a poor family like Mickey. Her lack of education and money allows her no real chance of happiness once Mickey becomes a depressed drug addict. As a last resort, she asks Edward for help before having an affair with him. Her betrayal of Mickey suggests that she is in some ways untrustworthy; but this is also her only chance to escape from the circumstances that have trapped her.
Russell creates a ‘character’ of the narrator, who acts a little like the Greek ‘Chorus’ from ancient tragedy whose role is to explain some of the key action on stage. The narrator also involves the audience by asking them directly to judge what they see. He helps to make sure that the audience stay a little ‘detached’ from the events of the play. He also helps them remember that this is a ‘story’.
He reveals that the brothers die at the very start of the play and from then on constantly reminds the audience of the twins’ fate. He presents the themes of fate, destiny and superstition throughout the play, but at the end he asks the audience to consider if it was social forces rather than 'fate' that caused the tragedy.