Representative of the younger generation, Jenny feels trapped within the oppressive family home, reminding us of the way Lily and perhaps even Maggie herself was when younger. Jenny has dreams and motivation to move beyond the financial restrictions of her upbringing.
She is John’s favourite and provokes his anger when she leaves, as he is horrified at her liberal behaviour. He also feels guilty for not being able to provide for her properly.
Jenny departs in Act II as the attitudinal and rebellious daughter and returns regretful, ready to make amends. Her promise of a new home and new life gives the play its optimistic ending, and sets the scene for Maggie’s transformation.
We hear a lot about Jenny before she enters the play as we wait, along with her mother and father, for her to return home.
Unlike Isa, who is dismissed by all the characters bar one, Jenny was once
a kind wee lassie, but she has become embittered by life in a
pig-sty. When she finally enters she is somewhat unkempt after her night on the town:
made up boldly( for the 1930s): her lipstick is spread over her mouth, her coat and blouse undone, her hair tousled.
The boldness of her make-up reflects her confident challenging of the status quo, while her dishevelled state with
spread lipstick and
undone clothing implies her uninhibited sexual behaviour as well as reminding us of the
muddle that she has grown up in.
Jenny asserts herself in front of her father, declaring that she plans to give up her job
I’m chuckin the shop with no concern for her family.
Hurtfully, she dismisses any
duty she might have to her parents in favour of striking out on her own:
It’s no ma job tae keep your weans. It’s yours. This, on top of the threat she presents to John’s pride, provokes the physical conflict when John hits her.
In Act III, when Jenny reappears, she is much changed. No longer dressed in
tarty clothes, she has come to make amends for the mistakes of her past. We see her with
head bent listening to John’s chastisement.
Rather than bringing the play full circle, her return at the end signals a new beginning for the Morrisons, thus making her an important character.