How is the historical context of ‘Hobson’s Choice’ reflected in the portrayal of male and female characters in the play? The play ‘Hobson’s Choice’ was written in 1916 but set in 1870 in Salford. In the 1870’s a woman’s property was in law of her husband’s property and ‘she’ had no vote. The play’s events are set in Victorian times, but its ideas and attitudes were in a generation later when it was written and performed. The themes were base on the rights of women and also a link between rebellion of the younger generation.
The moral of the story is shown as a conceited and self-centred old man when he is deflated, while a victim of his despotism, ‘a backward lad’, grows to his full potentialities, marries the boss’s daughter and takes over the business. This shows quite a reckless image showing that the play chronicles a shift in balance of power between the generations and sexes.
This just showed that hierarchy in the Victorian times was not obeyed by this family as Maggie and William tries working their way up.
In the society men’s roles were usually quite different to women’s roles with the exception of Mrs Heptworth as she was from a higher status than most of the men in the play. The men in the play were more middle class going up to professionals. Henry Horcatco Hobson is a middle aged windowed man, who owns a shoe shop.
He is quite self-opinionated and thinks he should be in charge although things don’t really go his way. The play named after him is quite ironic as he has no choices, which is not that usual for a Victorian man.
He tries to put his daughters straight but they don’t seem to listen; “Listen to me, you three, I’ve come to conclusions about you. About I won’t have it. Do you hear that? Interfering with my goings out and comings in. the idea! ” This shows his dominant streak which doesn’t quite work though. He is quite an old fashioned man, who may sound like people today who are in one generation above me. Maggie Hobson also a dominant member of the play, to ‘her’ principles and must have her way. Maggie is much more than the efficient organizer of the fortunes of Mossop and Hobson.
When she makes her bargain with Will Mossop, “I want your hand in mine and your word that you’ll go through life with me for the best we can get out of it. ” This brings over the awareness of Maggie being very hard, not so typically Victorian. She has signs of having emotional warmth although she hardly shows it. For example when she takes one of Mrs Heptworth’s flowers to press in her bible as a keepsake, we have a foretaste of her words at the end of the play about the ring, in which genial wisdom transcends mere common sense.
Through out the play we see the similarities of Maggie and Hobson who like daughter like father are both very self-opinionated which not a very usual thing for a female was in the Victorian period. Although she is quite independent and bossy; “Come up, and put the trap down; I want to talk to you. ” This shows Maggie ordering William around, a very unrealistic thing for a woman to do in the Victorian era. Maggie is 30 years old, considered to be ‘on the shelf’ by her father, Hobson. Later does he realise he is proven quite wrong.