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Question: With close reference to the extract, show how Willy Russell creates mood and atmosphere for the audience.
In this extract we see Mrs Johnstone ‘hustling’ Mickey toget to school and mocks Mickey’s relationship with Linda while Mickey deniesthis. We then see Sammy get on the bus with Mickey and Linda, claiming tocollect his ‘dole’. I will analyse this extract and show how Willy Russellcreates mood and atmosphere for the audience here.Firstly, we Mrs Johnstone hustling Mickey to get to school. MrsJohnstone says ‘You’re gonna miss the buss’ and Mickey replies with ‘I won’t’.This conversation between Mickey and Mrs Johnstone may feel nostalgic to some peopleas it will remind them of similar experiences that they had when they wereyounger. This creates a heart-warming atmosphere for the audience. Moreover, asthe conversation progresses and Mrs Johnstone says that Mickey will miss Linda,Mickey responds with ‘Well, I don’t wanna see her. What do I wanna see her for?’and Mrs Johnstone mockingly responds with ‘You’ve only been talkin’ about herin your sleep for the past week . . .’. Again, this brings a nostalgicatmosphere towards the audience. However, it also shows the significantlystrong relationship Mickey has with Mrs Johnstone. Mrs Johnstone jokes aroundwith Mickey’s relationship with Linda while Mickey tries to deny it but Mickeyknows that his mother is only playing around with him and doesn’t intend tohurt his feelings.Just after Mickey leaves the house, Sammy runs out of thedoor. Mrs Johnstone questions where he is going and Sammy says ‘The dole’. Thisquote here contradicts with the previous moments in this extract. Whereas the previousconversation with Mrs Johnstone and Mickey created a heart-warming atmosphere,this creates a more depressing, realistic mood. This is because Sammy is out toclaim the dole and it is inevitable that he will live in the dole for the restof his life. I think it may also be a metaphor for what Mickey’s future will belike in the future because the stage directions say ‘Mickey and Sammy exit’implying that Mickey might follow Sammy’s path. This links to the political andhistorical context at the time. This play was finished in 1981, two years afterPrime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, privatised companies because she thoughtthere wasn’t much competition against the world and believed this was affectingthe UK economy. As a result miners lost their jobs and particularly in theNorth West, Liverpool (where this play is set) which had a high unemploymentrate. Drugs and crime increased and housing became run down. Therefore, lots of people claimed benefits.I think that Russell using Sammy as an image to representthe financial crisis at the time also hints to the theme of class andultimately creates a sympathetic mood.Margaret Thatcher believed that if you worked hard you wouldbe successful. Russell uses this play to fight this idea. Russell believed thatif you’re born in a poor family then it is your fate to be poor. This can berepresented with Mickey who says he’ll ‘work twice the hours for half the pay’but he ends up in prison, addicted to anti-depressants. Vice versa, if you’reborn in a rich family (Eddie) then your fate is to be successful – like we seeat the end of the play where Eddie is a counsellor.
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