This is the scene in which the confrontation between Maggie and Hobson in takes place in the living room. Prior to this scene Maggie has informed Hobson that she is “Going to marry Willie”. Hobson does not want Maggie to get married but he doesn’t mind Vickey and Alice getting married because they are of less use around the shop and home. Hobson does not want Maggie to get a husband because he is selfish. Maggie is the daughter that is the most businesslike and helps him with the shop regularly. If Maggie were to marry, Hobson would have to do some proper work in the shop.
This scene starts with Maggie speaking to Hobson saying “You and l’ull be straight with one another, father. I’m not a fool and you’re not a fool, and things may as well be put in their places as left untidy”. Here Maggie is very direct in speaking and this is signposting to the audience that there is going to be a confrontation. Hobson replies with indignation by saying “You can’t have Willie Mossop. Why, lass, his father was a workhouse brat”. This is an example of the class differences again as Hobson is a shopkeeper and Willie is one of the working class. Willie had come from a poor background and the penniless poor like his father were taken to these workhouses and put to ‘use’.
To this Maggie replies “It’s news to me we’re snobs in Salford. This line would have been humorous to audiences of the past and present because Salford has always been a working town. Hobson is here concerned about his image within the community and about what his friends will think of him in the Moonrakers. Hobson illustrates these thoughts when he says “I’d be the laughing-stock of the place if I allowed it. I won’t have it, Maggie”. Hobson then tries to justify his stance by adding “It’s hardly decent at your time of life”.
One aspect in which audiences of the past would react differently to audiences of the present is when Hobson says “It’s hardly decent at your time of life” (Maggie is only 30). However, at the time this book was written people married an awful lot younger, mainly because the average life expectancy back then was a lot younger. Whereas in our days people marry at this age and older still. Therefore, audiences of past and present would react differently. An audience of the past may have thought this comment was amusing, however, an audience of the present may not think it was such a big deal and may also look on it from Maggie’s point of view as a demoralizing comment. However, Hobson’s selfish snobbish ways would make audiences of both past and present want Maggie to marry Willie just to spite Hobson for his pathetic behaviour.
An audience of the past would have found Maggie’s next line “And now I’ll tell you my terms” amusing because it is an example of role reversal because in those days the man was the master and was in charge and he was the one who laid down the terms and rules. Maggie then goes on to state her terms, telling her father how much she believes her and Willie should be paid. To this Hobson replies, “Do you think I’m made of brass?” – brass is colloquialism for money. This line would have been amusing to an audience of the past because this is how the people in the streets in that area spoke like and they would be able to associate to it. A present audience may also have found this line amusing, however, some may not have understood it.
Hobson tries to reassert his authority by shouting “I’ll show you what I propose, Maggie”. He then lifts up the trap door and shouts “Will Mossop!” He then unbuckles his belt and says to Maggie “I cannot leather you, my lass. You’re female, and exempt, but I can leather him”. Audiences of the present would be quite shocked by this behaviour as it is not a part of modern, civilized society any more. Such violence is frowned upon in our day. However, in the past, audiences would have been familiar with the term a good leathering, it would have been a regular occurrence. Therefore, they may have found this amusing rather than shocking.
Hobson continues to try to assert his authority when he says to Willie “You’ve fallen on misfortune. Love’s led you astray”. He then says, “I don’t bear Malice, but we must beat the love from your body”. However, this backfires on Hobson when Willie says “You’ll not beat love in me”. Audiences of the past would have enjoyed this repliance because it is the little man against the boss and in those days the boss had all authority.
Willie goes on to aggravate Hobson even more when he says “I’m none wanting thy Maggie, it’s her that’s after me, but I’ll tell you this, Mr Hobson: If you touch me with that belt, I’ll take her quick, aye, and stick to her like glue”. Again, audiences of the past would have enjoyed this because it is the little man against the all-powerful boss. Present audiences would have enjoyed this too because it would have illustrated Willies determination and independence.
After being struck with the belt by Hobson for his remarks, Willie then says to Maggie out of rage “I’ve none kissed you yet. I shirked before. But, by gum, I’ll kiss you now”. He then kisses Maggie, not with passion but with temper. Audiences of past and present would have enjoyed this part because it is a bit of romantic comedy and Willie is standing up to Hobson, who doesn’t know what to do next. Also, from this scene, audiences of past and present would have observed that Maggie and Willie are sensible, practical and have a mature way of thinking. These characters would make Hobson’s anti-social behaviour more noticeable to the audiences.
Finally, carrying on in his new found self-confidence, Willie adds “And if Mr Hobson raises up that strap again, I’ll do more. I’ll walk straight out of shop with thee and us two ‘ull set up for ourselves. Audiences of the past and present would have enjoyed this scene because not only is Hobson shocked by what Willie has said (Hobson stands in amazed indecision) but Willie is also shocked by the confidence he showed when he stood up to Hobson.
Scene Four The final section of the play I will examine is Act Three, pages 44 – 47. This section follows on from a scene in which Hobson, drunk from a night in the Moonrakers, fell down a pub cellar and woke up to find he had received a fine for trespassing. Upon this charge Hobson goes to Maggie’s house on her wedding day, in the hope of some help from her. In this section the roles of Maggie and Hobson are totally reversed. In this scene, Maggie is instead the one who is in charge, while Hobson has to take a more reserved, subservient stance; as he feels that his future is in her hands.
This scene begins with a knock on the door and Hobson shouting “Are you in, Maggie?” Vickey, Maggie’s sister proclaims, “It’s father!” in a terrified voice. Albert, who is Vickey’s fianc, then adds “Oh, Lord”, whereas Maggie simply says, “What’s the matter? Are you afraid of him?” This would inform the audience that there may be a confrontational moment ahead. Maggie soon takes charge of the situation by telling everybody, except Willie to go into the bedroom and that she’ll shout them before he’s gone.
To this order Vickey then says “But we don’t want-“, to which Maggie interrupts “Is this your house or mine?” and Vickey answers, “It’s your cellar”. Maggie then replies by saying “And I’m in charge of it”. Both audiences of the past and of the present would have found Vickey’s line amusing where she gets back at Maggie by illustrating the stark contrast of a house to a cellar. They also would have been amused by the fact that Maggie reasserts herself (I’m in charge of it) although she says to Willie you’re gaffer here whilst ordering him to sit down.
Hobson is then invited in by Willie, who is now in the role of the master of the house. Audiences of the past and the present would have found it amusing when Maggie says, “You can sit down for five minutes, father. That sofa ‘ull bear your weight”. This line would also illustrate to audiences that Maggie is not threatened by Hobson and makes light of his arrival. Maggie again shows that she is in charge when Willie says to Hobson “A piece of pork pie” and Hobson replies groaningly “Pork pie!” To this reply, Maggie pulls Hobson up sharply by saying “You’ll be sociable now you’re here, I hope”. Audiences of the past would have appreciated this amusing line because Maggie is pulling her father up sharp and she is in control in a commanding authority.
Maggie’s authority is further displayed when she says to Hobson “Happen a piece of wedding cake ‘ull do you good”. Eating the cake Hobson shudders saying “It’s sweet” to which Maggie replies “That’s natural in cake”. Audiences of the past and present would have found this humorous because Hobson enjoys a drink, and being an alcoholic he cannot tolerate sweet things. This is made even more amusing when Maggie pushes the cake towards him and says, “Then there’s your cake, and you can eat it”, to which Hobson pushes the cake away but Maggie pushes it back again, giving Hobson no choice but to eat it, to which Hobson replies “You’re a hard woman” as he eats the cake and, as illustrated in the film Maggie watches over him as he eats it.
This scene where Maggie forces Hobson to eat the cake would have been amusing to audiences past and present as well as viewed as something significant to all audiences as Maggie has already said “I’ve a wish to see my father sitting at my table eating my wedding cake on my wedding-day.
Harold Brighouse’s play Hobson’s Choice is a valuable document of what English society was like in 1915 (when it was written) and 1880 (when it takes place). I believe the play provides us with an important and useful insight to what society was like in those days in Britain as it provides us with an insight into the varying classes of people, how they were treated and their attitudes towards others.
In Hobson’s Choice, Maggie, the daughter of Hobson, marries against her fathers wishes much to Hobson’s discomfort and dismay. There are similar themes such as this in modern society today, which are in some ways related to this theme illustrated in Hobson’s Choice. For example, members of families sometimes run away from home in the hope of being with someone who they would otherwise not be able to be with under their parents influence, or to simply escape from a home in which they feel much discomfort in. Also, just like in Hobson’s Choice, children in modern society today marry against their parent’s wishes in order to be with someone.
I think audiences of the past and the present would have reacted similar and would have found the play humorous as it shows the underdog or the person who had nothing, Willie winning against someone who had everything, a shop owner and a pillar of society, Hobson. In Hobson’s Choice, Willie was a member of the poorer people and it was obvious that there was a barrier between him, who worked in a cellar, and those such as Hobson who owned the shop. However, today this barrier between the rich and the poor still exists more than ever, so it is clear that some things haven’t changed.
I personally enjoyed Hobson’s Choice as I found it amusing throughout and it was an interesting and enjoyable story the way it illustrated what Salford was like in those days and how people were treated according to their class. My favourite parts of the story were probably when Willie stood up to Hobson under Maggie’s watchful eye and walked out of the shop with her, much to Hobson’s amazement, and when Maggie told Willie that he was the man for her and he sat down complete shock and amazement. If I was in the audience I would have enjoyed these parts because they are some of the most amusing parts of the play, mainly because of the way Willie acts. For example, it is amusing when Willie is shocked by the prospect of marriage and he sits down mopping his brow and says in a shocked voice, “I’m feeling queer-like” – this is highly amusing as the poor man is taken back.
In the play Maggie comes across as the strongest character and somebody whom feminists within today’s society would be able to identify. Although in the era when the play set Maggie would have been a very unusual character. The character I would be most sympathetic with in the play would be Willie. This is because he is controlled throughout the play and he was the one who seemed to receive the most punishment, such as when Hobson tries to strike him with a belt for taking up with Maggie, even though he did not do the taking up. However, he would be the character I admire the most because of the way he didn’t give under the pressure of Hobson and stuck by Maggie.