Hobson’s Choice Summary Essay
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The class divisions of the 1880s are clear to see in the little scene when Alice, Vickey and Hobson find out Maggie intends to marry Willie. Alice says, ‘what you do touches us’ and this is true, as Maggie’s marriage to a man from a lower social class would be seen by many as a disgrace. Hobson says that Willie’s father was a ‘work-house brat’ and that he would be the laughing stock of Salford if he allowed Maggie to marry one of his workmen.
At this stage, Maggie does not seem to be thinking about starting up in business on her own, merely working in the shop as before but being paid for it.
Willie seems to be a down-trodden, easily intimidated man. He has no doubt been bullied by Hobson for years. Hobson however misunderstands Willie when he takes his belt to him as this physical insult changes Willie immediately who is outrage and, in his temper, kisses Maggie.
Hobson is amazed and doesn’t know how to respond. ACT TWO Scene One Act Two opens a month after Maggie and Willie have left Hobson’s. The business is obviously in trouble and Alice and Vickey are finding it hard to manage things without Maggie.
We learn that they have lost a lot of their high-class trade. Alice doesn’t know how to organise the work in the workshop and tells Tubby to carry on making clogs. Hobson is spending more of his time in the Moonraker’s. Alice is finding it difficult to balance the books. This brief scene serves to prepare us for the decline of Henry Hobson and the rise of Willie Mossop. Vickey and Alice wish they were married and their plans will soon be furthered as a result of their father’s excessive drinking.
Scene Two Maggie announces that she has heard of the relationship between Vickey and Freddy. She sends Freddy to fetch Albert Prosser. Freddy explains that Hobson has fallen down their cellar trap and is unhurt but sound asleep on some bags. Notice how quickly Maggie thinks. She has just met Freddy outside Hobson’s shop and from what he has told her, immediately works out a plan to get money out of Hobson for the weddings of her sisters. Scene Three We learn in this scene that Willie now has his own shop.
Maggie is obviously proud of the progress they have made in such a short time. She is determined that Willie will be treated with respect as part of the family and makes her sisters kiss him as a token of their acceptance of the situation. Maggie is also quick to cut Alice down to size when Alice says, scornfully, ‘Willie Mossop was our boot hand’. She is quick to point out that Willie is master of his own business and her sisters are just shop assistants. Maggie announces that she and Willie will be married at one o’clock at St. Philip’s church.
She buys a brass ring to use as a wedding ring. This shows that Maggie has her feet firmly on the ground as she is not prepared to waste money on sentiment when they need all the money they can to get their business off the ground. Willie and Maggie use a hand-cart to take away some of Hobson’s old and unused furniture. Alice and Vickey are appalled that Maggie is willing to live in two cellars using secondhand furniture. Alice and Vickey clearly want to start married life with everything new and this shows the difference between them and Maggie.
Vickey’s selfish streak is apparent when she sees the two broken chairs Will is carrying out and immediately resents Maggie having them. Maggie has always been confident and in this scene is even more sure of herself. Her language is the language of command. When Alice tries to tell her that she doesn’t know what she is aiming at, Maggie replies swiftly, ‘The difference between us is that I do. I always did’. There are also signs in this scene that Willie is growing in confidence from the timid, frightened, dirty workman who first appeared.