Mrs Lyons is a very lonely woman, who is the opposite of her employee Mrs Johnstone. At the start of the play, she is alone in her large home as her husband often works away on business - and is away for nine months at this point. She reveals to Mrs Johnstone that they are unable to have children and her husband refuses to adopt. Mrs Lyons’ desperation leads to her manipulating Mrs Johnstone into giving her one of the twins.
Mrs Lyons is devious in the way that she persuades Mrs Johnstone, which shows how much she wants a child, but also suggests that she has a cruel streak. After she has taken the child and Mr Lyons has returned home - believing Edward to be his son, she fires Mrs Johnstone as she is scared about her becoming close to the baby.
As Edward grows up, Mrs Lyons is overprotective and jealous. She gives her son very little freedom and becomes paranoid when she learns that he is spending time with his biological family. This actually leads to Edward becoming more distant from her, as he finds her suffocating.
When Edward is a teenager and openly spends his time with Mickey and Linda, Mrs Lyons’ mental health deteriorates, leading her to attempt to attack Mrs Johnstone with a knife when she refuses to move away. Finally, Mrs Lyons is the person who reveals to Mickey that Edward and Linda are involved in a romance, pointing them out to him.
Mrs Lyons quickly reveals to Mrs Johnstone that she is unhappy and isolated due to her husband being absent and them being unable to have children.
It's a pretty house, isn't it? It's a pity it's so big. I'm finding it rather large at present.
We bought such a large house for the - for the children - we thought children would come along.
Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone this very soon after they meet, suggesting that she is in need of someone to talk to. Her dreams of having a child have been destroyed through her and her husband’s infertility and this leaves her desperate.
Mrs Lyons uses what Mrs Johnstone has told her about her life to manipulate her employee into giving up one of the twins.
Already you're being threatened by the Welfare people.
Mrs Lyons is callous in using Mrs Johnstone’s fears against her. She shows a lack of empathy for the poorer woman and instead is focused on getting what she wants. Mrs Lyons also reveals her lack of understanding of Mrs Johnstone’s life, as saying
the Welfare people suggests that she is unfamiliar with the term.
Mrs Lyons becomes more and more fearful of her son being taken away from her by the Johnstones.
It’s just... it’s these people... these people that Edward had started mixing with. Can’t you see how he’s drawn to them?
Mrs Lyons is unable to discuss her real fears with her husband because he does not know the truth about Edward. She is unable to give a genuine reason for fears about their son and acts irrationally.
Mrs Lyons’ paranoia goes so far that she eventually contributes to the tragic end of the play through telling Mickey about Edward and Linda.
[Mrs Lyons ... turns Mickey round and points out Edward and Linda to him.]
Mrs Lyons’ bitterness leads to her betraying her own son by exposing his secrets. Her initial overprotectiveness pushes Edward away and leads to the downfall of all of the characters, through Mickey’s response to what she shows him.