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Willie Mossop started off at the beginning of this play as a shoemaker, in Hobson’s Cellar. He was of a low class and had great potential but little ambition. His first step was when Mrs Hepworth said that she only wants her shoes to be made by Willie. The next step towards his final personality was when Maggie proposed to marry him. He then went off with Maggie and started off his own business and then, not only did he stand up to Hobson, his former master, but he also stood up to Maggie, his own wife. In this coursework I intend to explore the play from the perspective of Willie Mossop’s development.
‘The shop windows and entrance from street occupy the left side. Facing the audience is the counter…’ The play starts off with a rather long description of the settings in the shop. This is because Harold Brighouse is making sure that the play should be in an entirely realistic scenery. The first impression that we get of the family relationship is that the three daughters are quite friendly towards each other but together they all are ‘against’ their father, Hobson. Maggie is the eldest of the children, all of whom are not yet married. Maggie has a stubborn nature and acts like a mother to the other two girls. She is strict, confident and she is very persuasive especially when she manages to get Albert out of the shop when it was very obvious in her mind that he wanted to speak to Alice.
‘Hobson … is fifty-five, successful, coarse, florid …’ When Hobson enters then for the first time we see the first time we see the whole family together. We can instantly tell that it is the girls that do the work in the shop and Hobson does nothing. His intention was to go to the Moonraker’s which he usually spends most of the day, rather than working in the shop or being at home. He then feels very concerned about his family name, and about the daughters ‘uppishness’ and ‘bumptiousness’ so he doesn’t go to the Moonraker’s. We see the three daughters dressed in nice clothes during the play. I find it hard to believe that Hobson actually cares about his daughters but rather he thinks that it is good for the business for the workers to wear nice clothes.
When Hobson laughs at the thought of Maggie getting married and refers to her as being ‘shelved,’ it is probable that she has been so busy looking after Hobson and her sisters that she did not have the time to get married. The start of Willie’s success was when Mrs Hepworth comes in and instructs that her shoes are only going to be made by Willie. She then instructs further that she wants Willie to tell her if he is to ever move shops. During this episode Hobson manages to make a fool out of himself on numerous occasions. Firstly he tries to take the credit on himself, and then thinking the shoes were faulty made a further idiot out of himself. She then turns to Maggie ignoring Hobson and succeeds in getting an answer out of her. From this we see Mrs Hepworth as an upper class women and a well-respected customer in the Hobson shop.
It is interesting to note that contrary to the belief of the times (that the husband was supposed to be in charge) Brighouse shows Maggie to champion the female sex and have total control over her husband. He cleverly reverses the commanding role from Willie to Maggie and represents her as the master of the house. Right from the beginning we see that Maggie has a very commanding and persuasive personality and as we move through the play we see Maggie’s persuasive nature winning. As she moves from minor things such as convincing Albert Prosser that he needed a new pair of boots to the outrageous act of marrying Willie and dismissing Ada Figgins whilst he was tokened to her.
MAGGIE: Will Mossop, you take orders from me in this shop. I’ve told you you’ll wed me. WILLIE: Seems like there’s no escape. This was an innovative concept for those ages, for the daughter of a middle class bootmaker to marry a working class craftsman employed by her father. The social tradition was to marry into your own class or higher but certainly not into a lower class. Another matter equally radical was her betrothal conflicting with her father’s views. It was particularly unusual in that period to marry without the consent and approval of one’s parents. Here however Maggie exercises her views and would like to marry Willie Mossop ignoring all the social customs concerning class distinctions and dating.
ALICE: I know, and if you’re afraid to speak your thoughts, I’m not. Look here, Maggie, what you do touches us and you’re mistaken if you think I’ll own Willie Mossop for my brother-in-law.MAGGIE: Is there supposed to be some disgrace in him? ALICE: You ask father if there’s disgrace. And look at me I had hopes of Albert Prosser till this happened. MAGGIE: You’ll marry Albert Prosser when he’s able and that will be when he starts spending less on laundry bills and hair cream.
Here we see her strong views concerning the elitists of the upper class. She strongly believes that they shouldn’t be treated especially well because they have money, power and influence, unlike her sisters who grow into and marry upper class members. Maggie has clearly displayed her view on the stupidity of spending large sums of money on hair cream and laundry bills. The lower classes were unaccustomed to spending extensive amounts on these luxuries. She displays the honesty of her opinion by marring Willie, to the disgust of her relatives and succeeding to succeed over her father.