Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

“This place stinks,” says Jo to Geof in act 2. “That river, it’s the colour of lead. Look at the washing, it’s dirty, and look at those filthy children.” Such imagery not only sets the mood, but also keeps the audience aware of the squalor surrounding the flat. The play protests against poverty, poor housing and minimal schooling opportunities. Jo feels let down, for example, by having to attend too many different schools because her mother is always on the move. The play also illustrates the gap between the magic of people’s dreams and the grim reality of their daily lives. Beneath the sharp give-and-take of the comic repartee is a wistful yearning for the possibility of more honest relationships between people, for more affection in a world where most things, including love, are (as in Helen’s world) for sale.

At a more personal—and more powerful—level the play is a study of a girl on the threshold of adulthood, wanting to be grown up, yet dreading the responsibilities of maturity (including motherhood). In her quest for a warm relationship she comes upon three types of love: sexual and romantic love with The Boy, brotherly and sisterly love with Geof, and the maternal love which she longs for but never gets from her mother, and which she finds difficult to summon up for the child within her.

Jo has few illusions about The Boy. She understands him in terms of her own fantasy world, endowing him with a mystical nature and...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Alienation and Loneliness
Jo has essentially been abandoned by her mother. This has been a life-long pattern, but it...

(The entire section is 906 words.)