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Maggie And Hobson In Hobson's Choice

2507 words - 10 pages

Maggie and Hobson in Hobson's Choice

The play "Hobson's Choice" is an invigorating character comedy set in
Salford, a town near Manchester. It is also a biting commentary on the
Victorian values that overhung into the early twentieth century, when
it was written. It pits Henry Horatio Hobson, an alcoholic old shop
owner, against his forceful daughter Maggie, who is determined to
break out of the dull boot shop and the life of genteel spinsterhood
that awaits her.

"Hobson's Choice" looks at the Victorian class and gender stereotypes,
and then blows them to pieces. Hobson himself has clear ideas about
the place of women, which he frequently expresses. His view is that "a
wife is a handy thing", yet that men who marry are "putting chains
upon themselves". This shows him to be a sexist hypocrite, but perhaps
he is a product of his time? His views on class are equally
pronounced, since he declares Willie unfit for Maggie to marry because
"his father was a workhouse brat", and similarly treats Mrs Hepworth
with great respect, though she -being in the class well above Hobson-
treats him with disdain. This shows that to some extent at least,
Hobson is merely reflecting the attitudes of his society.

Another theme relating to class is Alice and Vickey's marriages, and
their subsequent snobbery, about being in business not trade, and
their refusal to help Hobson when he needed it most. The location of
the play is also vital for its context- Salford, in Lancashire. The
play is entirely focussed on Salford, with Manchester being the only
reference to the outside world. Hobson is terrified of having his name
in the "Manchester Guardian" - because the whole of his world would
know that he had appeared in court. The industrial nature of Salford
is also important, both in the social conventions that arose, and in
the solid sensible nature of the inhabitants. Another Victorian oddity
is the Temperance Society, in particular Hobson's wish that Alice and
Vickey marry "temperance men" despite the fact that he was firmly
attached to his drink. So this is the social context in which
"Hobson's Choice" is set.

Hobson understands his place in this social context, and we hear him
extolling the virtues of "being British middle class and proud of it",
and "the unparalleled virtues of the British Constitution". He also
exploits his social position, using his appointment as a Churchwarden
to gather "high class trade". From this we can infer that Hobson was
once a successful self-made shop owner, with business sense,
dedication and skill, and a wife. From what Brighouse chooses to tell
us, he went into a decline when his wife died, which led him to seek
solace in the "Moonraker's". His wife must have kept house for him,
offered sensible advice, which Hobson would have paid attention to,
and been a...

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