Violence has a presence in the working class characters’ lives from a young age. When we first meet Mickey as a seven year old, he has a toy gun and he plays games involving imaginary guns with his friends and neighbours. The violence escalates as the play progresses, culminating in the tragic death of Mickey and Edward. Sammy, Mickey’s older brother, is a key character linked to this theme and he is connected in some way to most of the violent acts in the play. Violence reflects a lack of control; when characters start to lose power in some way, they become more violent.
When we see Mickey and his friends as young children, they play a variety of games that are all linked to guns and death.
But you know that if you cross your fingers / And if you count from one to ten / You can get up off the ground again / It doesn't matter / The whole thing’s just a game.
At this point, the violence is only pretend and after being ‘killed’, the children can join the game again. However, the games foreshadow the later violence at the end of the play, and remind the audience of how present this is in the characters’ lives.
Sammy persuades Mickey to be a lookout when he robs a garage, but the robbery goes wrong and Sammy shoots someone.
Look at y’, Mickey. What have y’ got? Nothin’, like me mam.
Sammy is able to persuade Mickey to get involved with this violent act because he has such little power over his life after losing his job. It is this event which leads to him going to prison and becoming depressed and then growing apart from Linda, which causes her to find comfort with Edward. Sammy involving Mickey in his plan is the catalyst for the tragic ending.
When Mrs Lyons realises that the Johnstones have also moved to the countryside (and Edward has been visiting them) she visits Mrs Johnstone to try to persuade her to leave.
Wherever I go you’ll be just behind me. I know that now... always and for ever and ever like, like a shadow.
Mrs Lyons becomes irrational and paranoid and accuses Mrs Johnstone of following her. She then lunges at Mrs Johnstone with a kitchen knife. This reflects how violence is linked to feelings of powerlessness and instability. Violence is a reaction by characters to their feelings of weakness and lack of control over what happens to them.
When Mickey is full of fury at Edward and Linda’s betrayal, his first thought is to take a gun to find his ‘blood brother’.
[Mickey waves at Edward with his gun hand. The gun explodes and blows Edward apart. Mickey turns to the police screaming the word “No”. They open fire and four guns explode, blowing Mickey away.]
Mickey taking the gun and going to find Edward reflects how he has resorted to violence to fight his own lack of control, like Mrs Lyons. However, Mickey shooting Edward is accidental. This demonstrates how violence can take over the characters’ lives. The repetition of the word
explodes reflects the devastating impact that violence has on the play and characters.
How does Russell explore the theme of violence in Blood Brothers?