Mrs Johnstone is a warm and caring mother, despite the struggles she faces supporting her eight children alone. At the start of the play, she describes how difficult her life has been. When she first met her husband, he would take her out dancing, but as she had more children, he thought she was too fat and eventually left her for another woman. Mrs Johnstone starts the play with seven children and is pregnant with her eighth. When she finds out that she is having twins, she panics, which Mrs Lyons takes advantage of.
Mrs Johnstone is naïve in allowing Mrs Lyons to convince her to give up one of the twins. Her superstitions and lack of education enable her employer to take advantage of her. Mrs Johnstone’s poor judgement is also shown in her buying things from the catalogue that she cannot afford.
Although Mrs Johnstone is very loving, she does not have control over her children and they cause a lot of trouble. When the family receives a letter from the council telling them that they are being rehoused in the countryside, she is very excited that they can have a new start. This is shown to be correct in many ways, as in her new home Mrs Johnstone is much happier - until Mickey and Sammy are sent to prison.
Mrs Johnstone has led a difficult life at quite a young age.
By the time that I was twenty five, I looked like forty two, with seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due.
Although Mrs Johnstone is at a relatively young age, she already has too many children to be able to support. Her difficult life has taken its toll on her physical appearance, which reflects the mental and emotional struggles she has had.
Mrs Johnstone reveals her superstitious nature to Mrs Lyons when she sees her putting new shoes on a table.
Oh God, Mrs Lyons, never put new shoes on a table... You never know what'll happen.
Mrs Johnstone’s fears are irrational and demonstrate her lack of education. Through revealing her superstitious nature to Mrs Lyons, she gives her a way of manipulating her.
When she has moved to the countryside, Mrs Johnstone becomes more sensible and focused on what really matters in her life.
I don’t want your money. I’ve made a life out here. It’s not much of one maybe, but I made it.
When Mrs Lyons tries to pay Mrs Johnstone to leave the area they both live in, she now has the strength to refuse. After having a fresh start, Mrs Johnstone gains confidence in herself and does not allow Mrs Lyons to manipulate her in the same way that she is able to at the start of the play.