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An Inspector Calls
The Birling family celebrates the engagement of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft. At the occasion are Arthur Birling, his wife Sybil, their children Eric and Sheila and Gerald Croft. After dinner, the men go into the parlour to drink and smoke and Arthur discusses the future, saying that a man’s only responsibilities are to his family and to himself. The doorbell rings and Inspector Goole enters. He tells the men that he is investigating the events surrounding the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith. He reminds Arthur that he fired Eva Smith almost two years earlier for inciting a strike where workers requested slightly higher wages. Arthur doesn’t accept responsibility for her death. Sheila enters the room and the Inspector reveals that Eva got a job in a local clothes shop and that Sheila had her fired. Sheila becomes very upset and admits that she had Eva fired out of jealousy. Sheila accepts her part in ruining Eva’s life and is truly sorry. Eric leaves, feeling unwell.
Goole talks about what happened after Eva lost her job. He reveals that she changed her name to Daisy Renton and Gerald reacts with surprise. Arthur leaves to speak to his wife and the Inspector leaves too. Sheila confronts Gerald about his knowledge of Daisy Renton and comes to the conclusion that he had a relationship with her the previous summer when he had claimed to be too busy with work to see Sheila. Gerald asks Sheila not to reveal the information to the Inspector and she insists that he must already know. The inspector returns to the room and confronts Gerald.
Sybil enters as the Inspector has started questioning Gerald and reminds him, as her husband had, of their important status in society. Goole doesn’t seem to care. Gerald is pressed by Goole and admits that he spent time with Eva under the name “Daisy” and that she became his mistress. He says that he ended the relationship in September and hasn’t seen her since. Gerald leaves and before he goes, Sheila returns her engagement ring. Goole asks Sybil about her charity work as the head of an organisation which provides help to women. Sybil begrudgingly admits that she met Eva two weeks earlier and denied her request for help because she hadn’t liked Eva’s manner. Sybil insists that she was totally within her rights to deny help to Eva and doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. It’s revealed that Eva was pregnant and Sybil insists that the responsibility for her situation lies with the baby’s father. Sheila is the first to realise it, and Sybil soon follows, that Eric is the father of Eva’s child. Eric arrives at the doorway.
It is revealed that Eric slept with Eva a few times and stole money from Arthur’s office to help her after she became pregnant. Eric learns that Sybil denied Eva help and becomes angry, accusing her of killing Eva. They argue, with Sheila and Eric accepting their share of the guilt, but their parents refusing to do so. Inspector Goole leaves, warning them all to treat other people better. Gerald returns and tells them that Inspector Goole is not really a police inspector. No such person in on the police force. Curious, they call the hospital to see if there really has been a suicide but they’re told that there hasn’t. Gerald, Arthur and Sybil are happy but Sheila and Eric reflect that they were irresponsible enough with someone else’s life and that they are still just as guilty.
The phone rings and Arthur is told that there has been a suicide and that a police inspector will be there shortly to ask them some relevant questions.
Arthur Birling – Arthur is a respectable figure in the community and places great importance on his success and his wealth. Arthur refuses to accept responsibility for Eva’s death, largely because of the public scandal it would create.
Sybil Birling – Like her husband, Sybil is motivated by public opinion and social status. She appears to be the coldest character in the play, using social obligations as her basis for right and wrong. She refuses to accept any part in Eva’s misfortune and, despite the revelation that her charity organisation denied Eva the help she needed, Sybil is still quick to judge Eric for his drinking and sleeping around.
Sheila Birling – Sheila undergoes more change than any of the other characters. She starts the play as an excitable and happy, if naïve, girl and she finishes as a voice of reason and responsibility, altered by her new worldview. She shows true regret for Eva’s death and wishes she could undo her part in it.
Eric Birling – Eric is the youngest of the Birlings and enjoys drinking heavily and womanising. Despite his lecherous habits, he is more capable of shame than his parents and becomes incredibly angry when he learns that his mother refused to help Eva. He stole money from his father’s office, but felt that helping Eva and his unborn child was more important.
Inspector Goole – Inspector Goole is a mysterious, seemingly supernatural figure. His manner is described multiple times as unlike that of a police inspector and he is more interested in morality than law or social class. He holds each of the Birlings and Gerald responsible for their wrongdoings but seems to be there to warn them to accept responsibility rather than to punish them. He displays uncanny knowledge of their interactions with Eva and seems to know about her death before it has happened.
Eva Smith – Eva doesn’t appear in the play in person, but is still one of its central characters. Eva’s life is one of loss and abandonment. Her family is dead and she is fired from two jobs where both of her managers described her as a good employee. Her dismissals come from occasions of not accepting her lower status in comparison to the Birlings. Eva’s expectations from life are lowered after each interaction with the Birlings and Gerald until she takes her own life.
Pip is a six year-old orphan living in Kent with his sister and her husband, Joe. One day, when Pip is visiting his parents’ graves, he is accosted by an escaped convict. The convict threatens Pip, telling him to return with food and a file to cut through his chains. Pip is terrified, but returns that night with the objects. He sees another convict while travelling to meet “his” one. He mentions this after giving the convict food and the man proceeds to cut his chains much faster at this new. At Christmas dinner the next day, Pip is afraid that his theft of food will be noticed. This is about to happen when they are interrupted by several guards looking for the convict. They ask Joe, the local blacksmith, to come with them and help them. Pip accompanies them and they find the two convicts. Pip’s convict has apparently captured the other and is willing to go back to prison if it means condemning the other man too.
Later, Pip is told by his uncle-in-law, Mr. Pumblechook, that it has been arranged for Pip to play at the house of Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham is an incredibly wealthy and eccentric spinster who lives nearby. Pip is brought to Satis House by Pumblechook, who berates Pip and constantly quizzes him on multiplication. Pip is brought in to see Miss Havisham. All the clocks in her room have been broken and are stuck at the same time. She wears an old wedding dress and the house is filthy, uncleaned since the day Miss Havisham was left at the altar. Here, Pip meets Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. Pip is struck by how beautiful Estella is but as they play together he finds her to be extremely cold and cruel. Pip is mocked for his low status and made to feel worthless. Pip returns to play several times, which is sister hopes will result in a big reward from Miss Havisham. Pip falls in love with Estella. When Pip is old enough to work, Miss Havisham sponsors his apprenticeship with Joe. This is her payment for him playing with Estella and she insists that it is the only payment he’ll receive. Pip is not as happy as he feels he should be, his time with Estella has taught him to be ashamed of Joe and of their work. Pip’s sister is attacked and suffers a head injury which leaves her unable to communicate clearly.
Pip is approached and told that he is to become a gentleman, sponsored by an anonymous benefactor. He is to travel to London and be educated as a gentleman should be. Pip moves in with a young man named Herbert Pocket, whom he once met and fought at Satis House. The two become very good friends. Pip becomes used to an extravagant lifestyle and falls heavily into debt. He becomes more and more ashamed of his home and his family in Kent. When Pip turns twenty three, his benefactor appears and reveals himself to be the convict that Pip helped many years before. His name is Magwitch and he wanted Pip to become a gentleman as thanks for his help.
Magwitch isn’t allowed to stay in the country and is in danger of imprisonment if he’s caught. Pip confronts Miss Havisham, who had allowed Pip to believe that she was his benefactor. He learns that Estella is marrying a violent, immoral man and begs her to reconsider, though she will not. There is a fire at Satis House and Miss Havisham is badly burned. She repents for the pain she has caused Pip and eventually dies. Pip and Herbert attempt to smuggle Magwitch out of the country but he is caught and he eventually dies in prison. Pip becomes ill and is nursed back to health by Joe, who also repays some of Pip’s debts. Pip returns home to ask Joe’s forgiveness and propose to his childhood friend, Biddy, but when he arrives, she has just married Joe. Pip leaves for Cairo, where he works in Herbert’s new company. Years later he returns to England.
Original ending: Pip is in London, where he meets Estella who tells him that she is married to her second husband. She has had a hard, unhappy life.
Revised ending: Pip meets Estella in Satis house. Her first marriage was painful and she has learned something of the pain Pip went through. It is implied that they will now be together.
Pip – Pip is a naïve and optimistic boy when the novel starts. He has simple desires and dreams and is happy to have Joe as his friend. As the novel progresses, Pip becomes ashamed of his humble beginnings and his friends. Pip matures and grows through his disappointment and loss. He learns to accept that he cannot be with Estella and merely wants her to be happy. Pip learns to be happy with what he has in life and, by the end of the novel, values his loved ones more than ever before.
Joe – Joe Gargery is Pip’s brother in law and his closest friend as a child. Pip is not well educated and quickly becomes a source of embarrassment for Pip after a few visits to Miss Havisham. Joe remains loyal to Pip, despite Pip’s own lack of loyalty. Joe is uncomfortable around people of a higher social class. Joe nurses Pip back to health and repays Pip’s debts, proving to be a better man than Pip. After Pip’s sister dies, Joe marries Biddy, the girl that Pip had considered himself to be too good for.
Miss Havisham – Miss Havisham is Pip’s counterpoint in many ways. Like Pip by the end of the novel, she has experienced great heartbreak and the loss of her great expectations. The principal difference is that Pip chooses to continue loving, even though it is painful, while Miss Havisham chose to hide away from the world in misery. Miss Havisham is frozen in time, much like the clocks in her house, and she refuses to move on from her heartbreak. Miss Havisham eventually repents before her death, though she is largely responsible for all of Pip’s and Estella’s pain.
Estella – Estella is Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter and Magwitch’s biological daughter. She is trained by Miss Havisham to break men’s hearts and to be heartless. As she grows, she becomes more beautiful and cruel, not even caring for Miss Havisham. Through her own pain and suffering, she learns what it is that Pip has experienced by the end of the novel.
Julius Caesar Plot Summary
Julius Caesar returns to Rome, following his victory against the sons of Pompey. The people of Rome celebrate, while also enjoying the festival of Lupercal. In the celebrations, Caesar is offered a crown as a symbol for becoming the Roman Emperor. Three times, Caesar turns it down. While this happens, Brutus and Cassius discuss the possibility of Caesar becoming emperor. Brutus doesn’t want Rome to have an emperor, preferring the system of the republic. Cassius convinces Brutus that power could corrupt Caesar and that he might need to be stopped. Brutus isn’t sure. A soothsayer (fortune teller) warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March” (March 15th). Caesar doesn’t heed this warning. A month later, Brutus receives letters written by Cassius but which claim to be written by Roman citizens. These letters speak about being afraid of Caesar’s rise to power and say that Brutus would be a much better leader. Brutus considers it his duty to the Roman people to protect them from Caesar’s possible corruption as an emperor. Brutus meets with the other conspirators and they discuss killing Caesar. Brutus convinces the others not to kill Antony and only to take Caesar’s life.
Caesar is arguing with his wife, Calphurnia. She thinks that the several unnatural omens lately are a sign of Caesar’s death and she tells him of a dream in which Romans bathed in Caesar’s blood. Caesar eventually agrees to stay home that day until Decius arrives and tells Caesar that the senate will present him with a crown. Caesar leaves, rebuking Calphurnia for distracting him with her worries. On the way to the Capitol, Caesar sees the Soothsayer and tells him that it is the Ideas of March and he is still alive. The Soothsayer reminds Caesar that the Ides of March is not yet over. Someone else tries to give Caesar a letter, warning him about the conspirators but Caesar doesn’t read it. Caesar reaches the Capitol and address the senate, comprised of the conspirators. Caesar speaks about his own importance and strength shortly before he is stabbed over thirty times. He is shocked by Brutus’ part in the attack and only falls after addressing him with “Et tu, Brute?”
Brutus tells the others to wash their hands in Caesar’s blood and address the Roman people, telling them the reasons why they had to kill Caesar. Antony arrives and speaks to the people. At first, he seems to be sympathetic to the conspirators but eventually turns the people against them. Brutus and the other conspirators are chased away and Brutus and Cassius prepare to fight a war against Antony’s forces. Antony forms a new triumvirate with Ocatvius and Lepidus to rule Rome and challenge the conspirators. Cassius and Brutus argue because Cassius condoned one of his soldiers accepting bribes and didn’t send Brutus money to pay his soldiers when requested. Brutus later apologises, upset by his wife’s death. Brutus’ and Cassius’ armies march against those of Antony and Octavius, meeting in conflict at Philippi. The battle goes badly for the conspirators. Cassius kills himself, believing the battle to be lost when in fact his troops had overpowered their foes. Brutus runs on his sword and dies when the battles finally is lost and is found by Antony and Octavius. Antony declares Brutus a true Roman because he sacrificed his friend and even himself while trying to make Rome a better republic, unlike the other conspirators who acted out of ambition.
Analysis of Major Characters
Julius Caesar – Julius Caesar is killed quite early in the play, but demonstrates many distinctive personality traits within a short time. Caesar is proud and arrogant. He makes repeated claims about himself as being more dangerous than danger or being as “constant as the northern star”. Caesar’s ambition is what finally convinces him to go to the Capitol on the day of his death and his pride makes him overlook repeated warnings from citizens, a soothsayer and even his own wife. Brutus is convinced to help kill Caesar as Caesar’s pride makes it easy to believe that his personal ambition could outstrip his love for Rome.
Brutus – Brutus is widely regarded as the most honourable character in the play, even by the very people trying to kill him. Brutus is manipulated by Cassius into believing that Caesar poses a threat to the Republic. Brutus insists that only good should follow from Caesar’s death and he refuses to let his soldiers behave in an unethical way, feeling that any misdeeds corrupt the reasons that made Caesar’s assassination necessary in his eyes. Brutus honours Caesar when he kills himself, saying “I kill’d not thee with half so good a will.” Brutus is arguably the protagonist of the play, as it is his dilemma and guilt which serve as much of the emotional drive for the play.
Antony – Mark Antony serves as a symbol of loyalty and friendship throughout the play. Like Brutus, Antony is one of Caesar’s close friends, and he is outraged at Caesar’s assassination. Unlike Brutus, Antony does seem to be possessed by a certain amount of ambition, rather than out of loyalty to the Republic. This can be seen by Antony trying to change Caesar’s will after his death so that some of the wealth pledged to the Roman citizens would instead go to help Antony pay for the battle against Brutus and Cassius. He also speaks to Octavius about removing Lepidus, their partner, from the triumvirate.
Cassius – Cassius is the leader of the conspirators and is responsible for convincing Brutus to join them. Cassius’ motives seem to be mainly selfish, acting out of ambition and greed and not sending money to pay Brutus’ soldiers. Cassius is manipulative and quick to take advantage of Brutus’ honourable nature.
Romeo and Juliet – Short summary
In the city of Verona, the two families of Capulet and Montague have an ongoing vendetta against each other. Following a large duel between the two families, the prince of Verona declares that there will be a death penalty issued upon any further duelling. Romeo Montague is lovesick over his beloved Rosaline. Romeo goes to see her in disguise at a party thrown by the Capulets. Juliet Capulet is told that she has caught the interest of Paris, an attractive bachelor. Romeo and Juliet meet and forget about their previous interests, falling instantly in love.
The two meet in secret and quickly decide to marry, although it goes against their families wishes. Through friends and servants, they manage to marry in secret. Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Juliet’s cousin and Romeo kills him in revenge. Juliet hears about it and worries about Romeo’s safety. Her mother thinks that he is upset about her cousin, Tybault and thinks that Juliet’s marriage to Paris will improve her spirits.
Romeo is in hiding in a friar’s cell. They come up with a plan for Romeo and Juliet to see each other for one night before Romeo flees until the Prince can be convinced to pardon him. After seeing Romeo, Juliet is told that she’ll be marrying Paris in two days’ time. Juliet threatens to commit suicide. She and the friar come up with a plan to fake her suicide and allow her and Romeo to be together. Juliet drinks a tonic which gives her the appearance of death for almost two days. Romeo hears of Juliet’s death and returns to Verona, killing Paris, whom he blames for driving Juliet to suicide. He goes to Juliet’s tomb and drinks poison so that he can be with her in death. Juliet wakes and finds Romeo’s body. She kisses his lips hoping to take some of the same poison. This fails, so she kills herself with a knife. The Capulets and Montagues find their dead children and, moved by their love and the grief of their deaths, they put aside their hatred and end their feud.
Romeo Montague – Romeo is the son of the Montague family and seems easily swayed by his feelings. When the play begins he is captivated by Rosaline and devoted to her, though his feelings change as soon as he sees Juliet. Romeo is impulsive and seems to act without considering the consequences. This is seen by him abandoning his love for Rosaline and instantly falling in love with Juliet, marrying her days later. It is also suggested by his vengeful killing of both Tybault and Paris and the act of taking his own life after believing Juliet to be dead.
Juliet Capulet – Juliet is the daughter of the Capulet family and is sought after by Paris, the most eligible bachelor in Verona. Juliet falls in love with Romeo and marries hi instead. Juliet is under more direct pressure from her family than Romeo is and is actively being spoken to regarding marriage and suitors. Juliet is at first very reluctant to approach ideas such as love or marriage but very quickly changes her perspective as she becomes enamoured with Romeo. Juliet is quick to leave her family and her life behind for Romeo.
Mercutio – Mercutio is Romeo’s closest friend. He is a temperamental ally of the Montagues and is quickly provoked to anger or violence. Mercutio is as impulsive as his friend Romeo and easily has one of the most volatile personalities of the play. His temper leads to his death at the hands of Tybault and ignites the conflict which forces Romeo to flee Verona, culminating in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio differs from Romeo in his approach to romance. He is derisive of Romeo’s romantic notions and encourages him to spend less time brooding over Rosaline.
Tybalt Capulet – Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and harbours deep hatred and anger for the Montagues. Tybalt is angered by Romeo’s presence at his family’s party and further enraged by Romeo’s refusal to fight. Like Mercutio, Tybalt’s conflict leads directly to Romeo’s banishment and the eventual death of the play’s leads. Like Romeo, Tybalt is slave to his emotion, though all of his emotions are represented by anger and a thirst for conflict.
Nurse – Juliet’s nurse is Juliet’s confidant in her romantic troubles. She provides Juliet with advice and delivers messages on her behalf. She is also a source of humour in the play, her lower class allowing her to make jokes of a sexual nature which take the sharpness away from some of the romantic and tragic tension.
Friar Laurence – Friar Laurence is the protector of Romeo’s and Juliet’s relationship. Friar Laurence marries them in secret and hides Romeo after he kills Tybalt. Friar Laurence also gives Juliet the potion which gives her the appearance of death and he attempts to send a message about this to Romeo. Unfortunately, the friar’s message doesn’t reach Romeo, ending in Romeo’s grief-stricken murder of Paris and suicide.
Summary – Act One The Crucible is set in Salem during the Salem witch trials. It opens on the house of Reverend Parris, whose daughter, Betty, seems to be afflicted by a mysterious illness. People in the town suspect witchcraft as the cause of her illness and there are rumours surrounding her and other local girls. Reverend Parris is quick to dismiss these rumours but admits to his niece Abigail that he saw her and Betty dancing in the woods with others. Abigail denies any involvement in witchcraft, insisting that they were only dancing. Parris also mentions some rumours against Abigail’s character but Abigail says that the source of those rumours, her previous employer, Goody Proctor, is trying to poison her name. Other people arrive and Parris leaves Abigail in the room with Betty and some other girls. The girls are afraid that people will learn that they were casting spell but Abigail threatens them to be silent.
Parris has called for an expert on witchcraft to investigate the rumours. John Proctor enters the room, telling his servant, Mary, to go home. The girls exit, leaving Proctor and Abigail there. Abigail attempts to seduce Proctor, saying that she misses their relationship. She confides in Proctor that there was no real witchcraft, just the girls being silly. Proctor rejects her advances, feeling ashamed of his unfaithfulness to his wife. Hale enters and confronts Abigail. Abigail blames Proctor’s slave for forcing her to practice witchcraft. Abigail repents and begins naming others that she claims she saw with the Devil.
Act Two Weeks later, John and Elizabeth Proctor discuss the developing situation of Abigail and other girls accusing several people of witchcraft. Elizabeth is worried that Abigail will name her soon. Mary returns late to the house and Proctor rebukes her. Mary warns him not to speak to her like a servant as she now wields authority in the trials. She tells them that dozens of people have been found guilty. Proctor tries to forbid her from returning to the courts and she exclaims that she saved Elizabeth’s life when her name was mentioned in court. She gives Elizabeth a poppet (doll) which she made for her in court. Later, Hale visits and expresses doubt regarding the trials. They are interrupted when officials come with an order to arrest Elizabeth. They look for her poppet and find a needle in it. They claim that a needle was found in Abigail’s stomach and that Elizabeth is being charged with attempted murder.
Act Three Proctor and the husbands of other accused women appeal to the court to release their wives. Giles Corey, one of the husbands, is arrested for refusing to disclose the name of his witnesses and Proctor admits to his affair in an attempt to discredit Abigail. This backfires and Proctor’s name is destroyed while his wife is still suspected of witchcraft. Mary, a witness against Abigail, is tormented by the others and retracts her evidence. Proctor is arrested and Hale leaves the courts, declaring them to be a sham.
Act Four In a Salem Jail cell, Elizabeth meets with the judge of the trials, Judge Danforth. They discuss getting Proctor to confess as he is due to be executed if he doesn’t. Hale has returned and is pleading with prisoners to confess. Elizabeth meets with John and convinces him to confess.
John confesses before court but refuses to condemn anyone else with his testimony. He is asked to sign his confession but refuses to hand the confession over saying that it is enough that he makes the confession but he won’t let his confession be used to condemn others. The court disagrees and he tears up his confession, going to the noose to hang instead.
Summary of Main Characters
John Proctor – John Proctor is the protagonist of the play, though all of the deaths and problems are indirectly caused by him. John’s affair with Abigail prompted Abigail to cast a spell against Elizabeth. When they were discovered, this was the beginning of the witch trials. Despite Proctor’s infidelity, he is held up as one of the most honourable, moral citizens of Salem. Proctor tries to discredit Abigail by admitting to his affair with her but only succeeds in damaging his own name. Proctor finds redemption by the play’s end when he goes to his death, refusing to earn his life by condemning others or giving a confession which would only aid the persecution of others.
Abigail Williams – Abigail is the antagonist if the play and is in many ways the opposite of John Proctor. A young woman, Abigail is caught up in her affair with John Proctor and turns to witchcraft to try to get rid of his wife. When she is caught in the act, she shifts the blame onto several undesirable citizens of Salem. Abigail is a capable manipulator and manages to convince many authoritative figures that her claims are true based on nothing more than her own words and actions. Even when John Proctor makes and outright accusation that Abigail is merely acting, she manages to lie and convince the court that John is in fact the guilty party. Though her initial motivation was to be with John Proctor, she wastes no time in sending him to his death when he turns against her. Abigail is selfish and intelligent. When enough people have become suspicious of the legitimacy of the witch trials, Abigail steals her uncle’s savings and runs away in secret.
Elizabeth Proctor – Elizabeth is John’s wife and is a highly moral character. She forgives John for his affair and remains a loyal and faithful wife. Even when her life is at stake, she attempts to protect John’s good name by refusing to publicly admit that he had an affair. This ultimately works against her and John as the evidence of his affair would have cast doubt on Abigail’s character. Elizabeth is less judgemental than many characters in the play and in fact blames herself for John’s infidelity. Elizabeth is highly respected as a moral character and comments more than once that she would never lie.
To Kill a Mocking Bird – Short Summary
To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story tells the story of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, her brother Jem, her father Atticus and her friend Dill in the American South in the early twentieth century. The novel covers a time period of a few years, during which Scout starts school and gains an awareness of the complicated nature of adulthood and the town of Maycomb, Alabama, which made up her whole world.
The story begins with the narrator recalling when her brother, Jem, broke his arm and saying that it probably wouldn’t have happened if they’d never met Dill. The story moves to a few years before Jem broke his arm and introduces Scout and her brother to Dill. Dill is visiting Maycomb for the summer, staying with his aunt, one of Scout’s and Jem’s neighbours. Dill endears himself to the two by demonstrating his knowledge of a Dracula movie and they become close friends. The three are fascinated by Boo Radley, one of the neighbours whom they haven’t ever seen. Boo apparently stabbed his father and hasn’t been allowed to leave his house since then, living under the watch of his mother and brother. They invent stories and games about Boo and are fascinated by the notion of somehow seeing him or getting him to come outside.
Scout and Jem are partially raised and educated by their African-American cook, Calpurnia. Scout considers Calpurnia to be unnecessarily strict on her but shows a lot of love and affection for her over the course of the novel. Atticus has taught his children to read from an early age and encourages them to love literature. This causes friction for Scout when she begins school and he teacher reprimands her for already knowing how to read and write in cursive. Atticus comforts Scout and tells her that before she judges her teacher, or anyone, she should take the time to step into their shoes.
Trouble settles in Maycomb as Atticus, an attorney, is called upon to represent Tom Robinson, and Afircan American man accused of raping Mayella Ewell. The Ewells are well known in Maycomb for the truancy of their children and their general disregard for the law and for other people. Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, has a reputation for drinking away the money he collects, more or less leaving his children to fend for themselves.
The town quickly turns against Atticus for appearing to want to give Tom Robinson legitimate representation. Scout and Jem feel the hostility of their neighbours but Atticus encourages them not to become angry with their friends and neighbours and to remember that the controversy of the trial will pass. When the trial begins, Scout, Jem and Dill sneak into court to watch it. The children are deeply affected by the racism shown during the trial and it’s clear that Tom Robinson is innocent and that Bob Ewell is an abusive, violent father. Nevertheless, Tom is found guilty.
The children are hurt and disillusioned by the racism and injustice of the verdict though Atticus didn’t expect Tom to be found innocent. He expected the all-white jury to side with the Ewells but still had to try everything he could to defend Tom. Bob Ewell considers himself to have been humiliated in court and swears to get revenge on the people he blames.
Scout is to play a ham in a pageant featuring many of the school children. Jem walks with her to the school and they are scared by one of Scout’s classmates. On the way back from the pageant, Scout and Jem hear someone moving behind them in the darkness and believe it to be Scout’s classmate again. They make their way home across an unlit field when they are attacked. Jem is knocked out and Scout hears figures fighting and struggling in the dark. She follows one of the figures, who is carrying Jem, back towards their neighbourhood. The figure is someone Scout doesn’t recognise. When they get home, the doctor is called for Jem and the police are called. It’s revealed that the man who attacked them was Bob Ewell and that the stranger who saved them was Boo Radley. Jem’s arm is broken and he needs to rest for some time.
Scout walks Boo Radley back to his house. The narrator reflects that it was the last time she ever saw him. She looked at her neighbourhood from his driveway and understands what Atticus told her about seeing the world from someone else’s perspective.
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch – Scout is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. Despite her young age at the start of the novel, Scout is an intelligent and open-minded child, though she does have a tendency to misinterpret other people’s actions and attitudes to reflect more favourably on herself. Scout admires her father a lot and respects him as a moral authority. Scout is very much a tomboy, willing to beat up boys if provoked but she walks away from fights to obey Atticus’ wishes. Scout makes the transition from wide-eyed innocence to solemn understanding as the novel progresses.
Jem Finch - Jem is Scout’s older brother and similarly looks up to Atticus as a role model. As Jem enters adolescence, he begins to treat Scout as less of a peer and becomes quite patronising. He is nonetheless very caring and protective of his sister. Jem’s sense of justice allows him to be deeply hurt by the prejudice he sees around him during the Tom Robinson trial.
Dill – Dill lives with his mother, but is sent to stay with his aunt during the summer holidays. This is how he comes to meet Scout and Jem, who are his aunt’s neighbours. He soon becomes close friends with them and returns each year. Dill is very small for his age and frequently exaggerates in his stories. Dill is badly hurt by the social injustice of Tom Robinson’s trial. Dill promises to marry Scout as soon as he’s old enough to.
Atticus Finch – Atticus is Scout’s and Jem’s father. He is much older than the parents of their friends and Scout seems to think that he is too old to do anything. It is very important to Atticus to serve as a strong moral example for his children and he willingly puts his pride aside many times in order to do what’s right.
A taste of Honey
Shelagh Delaney was born November 25, 1939, in Salford, Lancashire, England. Her father, a bus inspector, and her mother were part of the English working class, the social group that informs of her writing. Delaney attended Broughton Secondary School but began writing even before she completed her education. She had no further interest in formal education, and after she left school, she held a number of jobs, including salesgirl, usherette, and clerk.
A Taste of Honey was produced when Delaney was eighteen-years-old. Although this play was originally being written as a novel, it was rewritten as a play in response to Delaney’s dissatisfaction with contemporary theatre. Delaney felt that she could write a better play, with more realistic dialogue, than the plays that were currently being staged. A Taste of Honey became an unexpected hit, winning several awards both as a play and later as a film.
During the 1950s/ 1960s two types of theatre emerged – ‘absurd’ and ‘social’ drama. The term ‘absurd’ was supposed to describe life as meaningless and this was a reaction to the mainstream post war theatre about the upper classes. Social drama is often concerned with the working classes and the younger generation. The fact that Delaney chooses a female protagonist who has a homosexual friend and interracial relationship was very controversial at the time.
‘Angry Young Men’ was the label given to a group of British writers – notably
playwright John Osborne – of the late-1950s, whose work expressed bitterness and
disillusionment with post-war English society.
A common feature of their work is the antihero, a flawed, often abrasive character who rebels against a corrupt social order and strives for personal integrity. Delaney did not set out to become a part of this group, but when her play was produced, many critics saw her work as a protest against working class poverty and the social conditions of her time.
Kitchen sink theatre is a movement in theatre which uses family and domestic settings in order to examine social and class issues. A Taste of Honey is referred to as a Kitchen sink drama because it portrays the lives of working class people, living in a deprived inner city environment, struggling to overcome practical and personal problems.
Changes to culture in society began around 1950 (what we know as the 60s really began around 1955). After the difficulties of rationing and shortages, Britain enjoyed an economic boom in the 'never had it so good' years of the second half of the 50s. The good times continued into the sixties and a social revolution took place. There was a huge emphasis on youth and youth culture.
Politically, people started to move away from conservatives in favour of the political
left as the country felt cheated and duped by the Suez Crisis. For the first time since
the war, people started to mistrust the Government and radical views gained more
Jo is afraid of the dark – but only inside the house. Plot begins.
This introduces key characters: Helen, the ‘semi-whore’, is clearly unable to organise her own life in a satisfactory way. Jo despises much of her mother’s attitude to life. The two women squabble constantly, refuse to help each other and score points off each other. Their relationship seems more like that of peers rather than mother and daughter. This is emphasised by Jo addressing her mother by her first name all the time.
Helen should not be viewed as a prostitute but as an attractive woman who enjoys life without thinking about the consequences of her actions. Helen derives pleasure from the company of men and alcohol. In fact, she is dependent on alcohol as she enters and leaves the play looking for a drink.
Helen is a bully, frequently making threats of physical violence against Jo; she demands her own way, despising everyone else’s opinions, choices and values; she is, by the standards of the time, immoral in her sexual behaviour; she drinks too much; she shows Jo no affection at all; she seems unconcerned about what Jo does or how she will live, apart from an occasional brief hope that she won’t ‘spoil her life’ by following in her own footsteps. She abandons Jo in order to go off with a man; her only interest in men is money; she is disorganised, lacking in direction and weak.
Jo begins as a school girl and evolves into an expectant mother. Jo has inherited many of her mother’s weaknesses: she has a tendency to drift, rather than make a determined effort to achieve something; she has little ambition; she is ready to settle for less than she deserves, becoming engaged to the Boy even though she knows he will probably never come back to her; she has outbursts of temper – smashing the doll, attacking Peter, falling out with Geof; accepting the abusive relationship with her mother.
But she has strengths that her mother lacks: she has a higher standard of personal morality; she is capable of affection; she has some artistic talent, though lacking the drive to make the most of it; she has no prejudices and she gets herself a job.
Geof is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the play: he is caring, concerned and gentle; he has interests traditionally seen as feminine, especially in the 1950s – making baby clothes, keeping the flat tidy, cooking, looking forward to caring for the baby. As a result, he is assumed to be gay by all the other characters but he never admits to it himself.
In fact, he has sexual feelings for Jo, forcing a kiss on her, is this because he is confused about his sexuality? He offers to marry her but seems to accept her rejection quite calmly. He accepts the role that Jo invents for him – an old woman, sexless, old-fashioned, trustworthy.
Helen has few redeeming features; Peter has none at all. He is a bully; he is prejudiced; he is a drunk; he is a womaniser. He marries Helen in spite of having, Jo believes, a string of other women. He throws her out as soon as he finds someone more attractive.
Why does he fancy Helen? She is ten years older than he is; she has no money; she is aggressive; she is clearly after his money; she is no longer physically attractive. Yet he marries her, spends lavishly on her and puts up with her aggression. Although he is a bully, he is not frightening: Jo and Geof both stand up to him.
The Boy’s main function in the play is to get Jo pregnant. We don’t even learn his name until almost the end of the play. However, he is cheerful, optimistic and loving. The engagement ring may have been bought in Woolworths, as he claims, but at least he has gone to the trouble of getting one.
Is he sincere in his promises for the future? It’s possible, of course, that he gives a cheap ring to every girl he wants to bed, just as a way of buying sex (not so readily available free in the 1950s as it is today).
Form, Structure and Language
When Shelagh Delaney began writing A Taste of Honey she was only 18 years old, having left school at 16 to find employment. Delaney had always been passionate about creative writing and this gave her the impetus she needed to begin writing a novel.
However, Delaney soon decided to change the form of A Taste of Honey from a novel to a play. This was because she was disappointed with most of the theatre that existed in the 1950s. After seeing a production of Terence Rattigan’s play Variation on a Theme, Delaney was convinced she could write a better play herself. She felt that the play, like so many productions of the 1950s, did not challenge its audience in any way. Instead, it portrayed the lives of middle class people who lived rather blessed lives and did not face the struggles and challenges that so many members of the working classes faced on a daily basis.
The structure of A Taste of Honey is simple. There are two acts in the play and each act is divided into two scenes. The main character in the play is Jo and the drama unfolds over a period of nine months, from the time she moves into the flat with her mother Helen, to the moment at the end of the play when she is about to give birth to her baby.
When the play begins it is winter and not long before Christmas. However, Act two begins in the summer months, something which is reinforced by the references the characters make to the heat. For example, during Act 2: Scene 1, Jo says to Geof, “God! It’s hot.” The heat makes Jo restless, particularly as she is pregnant and already feeling uncomfortable.
Although the structure of A Taste of Honey is relatively straightforward, it still enhances the audience’s understanding of Jo and Helen and the difficult relationship they have. For example, at the opening of the play it is obvious from the characters’ constant bickering that the audience is meant to infer they do not get along with each other.
The language Shelagh Delaney uses in A Taste of Honey is extremely realistic and is meant to reflect the way working class people spoke to each other in 1950s Britain. Words and phrases such as “Temperance Society” [Helen to Geof], “Snotty-nosed daughter” [Jo to Peter], and “moonlight flit” [Helen to Jo], might seem outdated to a modern-day audience but to an audience in the 1950s, they were the words and phrases that were regularly heard. Similarly, terms such as “pansy” or “pansified freak” to describe a homosexual are no longer tolerated but in 1950s Britain, when people were far less accepting of homosexuality, these sorts of taunts were a much more common occurrence.
Even though the themes of the play such as the poor relationship between Helen and Jo are serious, there are also funny moments and much of these are created through Delaney’s dialogue.
This can be seen in particular in Act 1: Scene 2 when Helen and Jo discuss the differences and similarities between the cinema and the theatre. Helen concludes that, “...the cinema has become more and more like the theatre, it’s all mauling and muttering, can’t hear what they’re saying half the time and when you do it’s not worth listening to.”
A Taste of Honey is set in the north of England, yet Shelagh Delaney chose not to make this obvious from the way her characters speak. They mostly use standard English, except for the odd northern expression such as when Helen asks Jo in Act 2: Scene 2, “Can you hear those children singing over there on the croft, Jo?”Setting
Most of the action in A Taste of Honey takes place either in Jo and Helen’s flat or the street outside. At the beginning of the play Shelagh Delaney makes it clear from her stage instructions that the flat should be presented as shabby and rundown, ‘The stage represents a comfortless flat in Manchester.’ However, the other details about the flat are conveyed through the dialogue, for example:
Although many serious issues, such as teenage pregnancy, single motherhood and homophobia are presented to the audience of A Taste of Honey, there are still moments of comedy throughout the play. Jo and Helen argue constantly and the audience no doubt feels sorry for Jo when she is left alone in a strange new flat so that Helen can go off drinking with Peter.
One of the things Shelagh Delaney was determined to do when she wrote A Taste of Honey was to create an honest play which presented its audience with a realistic portrayal of working class life. On the whole Delaney achieves this but there is one area which the audience might feel is slightly less realistic.
This is when music suddenly begins to play in the background or when the characters begin to dance or break into song. Although only snatches of the songs are sung, they often reflect important events that are happening on stage and for some audience members that might appear to be too contrived and therefore lacking in realism.
A Taste of Honey is split into two acts and each act is split into two scenes. The action flows smoothly between each scene with Jo’s moments of happiness with her boyfriend interestingly taking only the minimum amount of time. Delaney spends much more time on stage developing the relationship between Jo and Helen and the way this impacts on Jo’s life in particular. Throughout the play the audience begins to understand that every time Jo feels she has some control over her life, such as when she is living with Geof, Helen will reappear and spoil things for her.
The audience is left with the sense that Helen will keep coming back to Jo and will continue to disrupt her life. As Helen points out to Jo, “I never thought about you! It’s a funny thing, I never have done when I’ve been happy. But these last few weeks I’ve known I should be with you.”1. Helen and Jo’s relationship
2. Love, Sex and Marriage
4. Growing up
5. Death and darkness
6. A Taste of Honey
7. Views of 1950s society