HOW IS MAGGIE PRESENTED TO US IN ‘HOBSON’S CHOICE’ BY HAROLD BRIGHOUSE? ‘Hobson’s Choice’, by Harold Brighouse, was written in 1916 but it was set in the 1800’s in Salford. The first act takes place in Hobson’s boot shop in Chapel Street. When we first meet Maggie we see that she is curt when she speaks with her younger sisters. ‘If he wants to marry you why doesn’t he do it? ’ She also shows that she is an eager business woman when she convinces Albert Prosser to buy a new pair of boots. ‘You can’t go through the streets in odd boots,’ Albert was only in the shop you speak with Alice.
Maggie also deals with her father in a very business-like way when telling him to come home at a certain time to get his lunch. ‘If you stay more than an hour… you’ll be late for it. ’ Even though Hobson acts like he is in control of the household, the audience soon realise that, in fact, Maggie is in control. Shortly after, it is clear that Mrs Hepworth, a valued customer in the shop, thinks highly of Maggie. ‘You seem to have some sense. ’ The audience then learn Hobson does not wish Maggie to wed because she is too useful.
It is when we first meet Willie Mossop that we learn more about the character of Maggie. When Maggie decides Willie is the man for her, she sees that marriage, for them, is more like business partnership. ‘My brain and your hands ‘ull make a working partnership. ’ Another characteristic we learn about Maggie is that she is socially above Willie but Maggie sees that Willie has the potential to make his own business. ‘You’re a business idea in the shape of a man. ’ Maggie is not, however, without some humour. We see this when Willie tells her that he is to marry Ada Figgins. The scheming hussy. It’s not that sandy girl who brings your dinner? ’ The humour at this point would cause the audience feel more warmly to Maggie’s character. In the second act, we see some of the same characteristics of Maggie. Also, some new characteristics are shown. From the start of the act, the sisters are filling Maggie’s role in the shop. ‘It’s theses figures. I can’t get them right. What’s 17 and 25?.. 52 of course. ’ The audience can see that Maggie and Willie have stuck to their threat to leave if Willie doesn’t get a pay rise so they can get married.
Later in the act, it becomes clear that Maggie is hatching a plan and this shows she is unselfish and cares for her two younger sisters. This can be compared to the way her sisters act – snobby, selfish and materialistic. ‘You can both of you kiss him for your brother-in-law to be. Vickey and Alice are much annoyed. ’ Maggie of course, has none o those characteristics. She would rather wear a brass ring to get married in instead of a gold one. However, Brighouse still makes Maggie’s character consistent by making Albert Prosser push the hand cart to her house. You’ll have to take it to our place, Albert. ’ At the end of the act the audience notice that Willie is now, willing and happy to marry Maggie. ‘Yes, Maggie… You’re growing on me lass. ’ In act three we see that the wedding reception is a small and simple one. This tells the audience that Maggie is not one for wasting money and does not mind having the party in the cellars. As the play moves on, the audience starts to see a change in Willie, ‘You’re making a great mistake, Mr. Hobson. ’ Willie also starts to take the upper hand with Hobson, ‘Sit down, Mr.
Hobson. ’ The change in him is all down to Maggie; she has pride in Willie and believes in him. Their marriage is originally more of a business arrangement but it starts to become more of marriage of equal partners. When Hobson comes over to seek help, Maggie is sure to talk to Will first, ‘Will it’s my father. Is he to come in? ’ Maggie and Will work together to make Hobson feel ashamed of his drinking and lead him into giving marriage settlements to her younger sisters. The audience will warm to Maggie over the way he skilfully gets her own back on her father.
When Maggie deals with her father’s “problem”, she is in control and the audience, clearly see that she and Will are working together as a team, ‘Do you think it will get in the paper Maggie?… Yes, for sure. ’ Will has come a long way as he was previously described as ‘stunted mentally by a brutalised childhood. ’ Even though Maggie’s plan has gone well in getting Hobson to give the settlement money over as a fine for trespassing, she shows that she cares for her sisters. Maggie does not let Albert Prosser take the thousand pounds he originally asks for, ‘You needn’t be greedy. She also threatens to counter-sue and confirms the original settlement of five hundred pounds. We see a softer more sentimental side of Maggie when she throws away the hot house flowers but keeps one to press in her bible. To finish the act, Brighouse returns to the comedy of when Will has to be led to bed ‘by the ear. ‘ Although Maggie is clearly in charge in this respect, it contains an element of affection and humour plus this would also make her character a likeable one. At the start of Act Four, we see that Hobson is ill. Tubby tries to help by suggesting for Maggie to come over. ‘Shall I go for Miss Maggie sir? The opinion is agreed by the doctor, ‘I don’t know who this Maggie is, but I prescribe her. ’ When Maggie and her sisters find that Hobson needs looking after, Vickey and Alice try to get Maggie to do it. Alice says, ‘I don’t think I can be expected to come back to this after what I’ve been used to. ’ Hobson tries to offer an unfair, mean deal to Maggie and Will to take care of him but Maggie quickly says, ‘If he goes, I go with him father,’ as the bribe is poor. The audience notice how Will has become a true gentleman with the help from Maggie, ‘You’re the man I’ve made you and I’m proud. ’
When Will tries to replace Maggie’s brass ring for a gold one, Maggie does not wish to give it up. ‘That brass ring stays where you put it. ’ This shows the audience a sense of sentimentality. The play ends with Hobson as a sleeping partner, in Will’s business. Will, amazed, closes the act and the play with the words, ‘Well by gum! ’ At the end of the play, the audience sees that Maggie as more of a likeable character. She is portrayed, by Brighouse, as a successful businesswoman – strange for a lady in her point in time. Brighouse shows Maggie can be fair and compassionate with other characters.