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In act one scene one we discover that Helen is a very down to earth
type of person as she says “when I find somewhere for us to live I
have to consider something far more important than your feelings. . .
.The rent”, this shows that she is thinking about the more important
things in life, she is also emphasising the letter “I” which is
implying that she is a lot better than her daughter, this also shows
that she has a roof over Jo’s head.
The beginning of this play shows that Helen enjoys drink, “pass me a
glass Jo” the first thing that she thinks about is alcohol, this shows
that if she can afford to buy whisky then she may have been able to
find a better place for them to live, although the accommodation isn’t
very appropriate it still provides Jo with a roof over her head, we
also get the impression that she is an unfit parent as her priorities
should be towards her daughter and not towards alcohol.
Helen feels that Jo owes her a lot, Jo feels the total opposite, and
there is not a close relationship, Helen feels that she deserves
respect from Jo, most people may think that as Helen is Jo’s mother
then Jo does owe her a lot but most people would think that Helen owes
a lot to Jo as she hasn’t really been there for her daughter all these
years, but as an adult Helen does deserve respect from her daughter no
matter what she has done, because at the end of the day Helen did
bring Jo into the world and has brought her up to be what she is now.
As we can see in act one Jo shares a bed with Helen this is a
redeeming quality because if Helen despised Jo that much she wouldn’t
be willing to do this, because at the end of the day the both need
somewhere to sleep.
Helen has a very negative view on life as she says, “that’s where we
all end up sooner or later”, this was related to Jo trying to decide
where to put her bulbs, she felt that the best place to put them was
in a cold dark place, the cold dark place meaning to Helen a grave,
this is yet another reference of death which Helen seems to use.
I think that by being a prostitute and sleeping around is a way for
Helen to find someone to love her, she craves it.
Helen seems to be addicted to men, She gives Jo a distorted view on
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its as if she only wanted one thing and that is all he was good for,
she seems to talk about it all the time as if she is encouraging Jo to
Before Helen gave birth to Jo we see that she had an enjoyable life as
she refers to her first job even though she didn’t earn much money she
still enjoyed it as she says “..Puts me in mind of my first job, in a
tatty little pub down Whit Lane. I thought it was wonderful.” We the
reader can tell from this phrase that Helen had no responsibilities
and had no-one else to care about, things changed once she had her
daughter, her priorities need to be towards Jo rather than herself.
Helen doesn’t think about anyone but herself, she always seems to be
moaning about Jo doing nothing for her as she says “ …if you spent
half as much time on me as you do on them fiddling bits of greenery
I’d be a damn sight better off ….” Helen also says then that she has
bought Jo up to be the way she is and she does nothing for her, she
then refers to her childhood and that she would never talk to her
mother in the way Jo speaks to her as she says “you bring ‘em up and
they turn round and talk to you like that. I would never have dared
talk to my mother like that when I was her age….” This is Helens way
of telling Jo that she deserves respect, just like Helens mother also
There is another reference to death when Helen says “…-makes no
difference though we all end up the same way sooner or later…”, this
is implying that no matter how hard we work in life or no matter what
we do we all end up the same, implying that everyone dies. We the
readers get the impression that she doesn’t want to be in the position
that she is now, and that she may feel that her life is not worth
She also doesn’t encourage Jo to stay on in school or to get a job,
which to us the reader we feel that most parents do encourage their
children to do well, but when Helen finds Jo’s drawings her attitude
changes, she has found a talent in her daughter that she has never
seen before, she shows amazement as she says “Hey, Jo, Jo, what’s
She is so pleased with what her daughter has achieved that she wants
to hang it on the wall, we are now beginning to notice that Jo has
hidden talents, this shows that she is praising Jo. She then ruins the
fact that her daughter appreciated her compliment by saying that she
is going to hang it somewhere least noticeable. This is wrong to say
this to Jo as she may have damaged Jo’s self esteem.
The first sign of Helen beginning to soften is when she advises Jo to
go to a proper art school. Helen is even willing to pay for it out of
the little money that she has. By moving Jo from school to school this
has given Jo a negative opinion of going to yet another school, she
may feel that her mother may move again and she will have to leave
just like she did with every other school they never stay in one place
for long, this may be due to Helen getting bored with one place or she
may be running away fro someone i.e. a man.
As soon as one of Helens fancy men came into the picture she tries to
get rid of Jo, she is the least of her worries, as the main thing that
is on Helens mind is sex she shows no concern for her daughter as she
says “oh go and have your bath” this shows us that she wants to be
alone with Peter for more reasons that one i.e. sex!
Helen tries to convince herself that she is going to give up sex and
men, this shows that Helen knows that she should be looking after her
daughter more and not concentrating on the least important things in
her life, not because of what men have done to her, but because of
what she has done, and things that have happened afterwards that she
may have regretted i.e. she became pregnant with Jo, although we are
not told that Helen regrets having Jo we just get the impression that
she is not wanted, due to Helens attitude to what Jo does and what she
Helen is going out with a man young enough to be her son this is an
ambiguous relationship, if Helen were to marry Peter then this would
be a redeeming quality as there would be a father figure for Jo, but
Peter is not the father type as he says “Do what your mother tells
you”, this shows that he is being authoritive, but the only reason
that he is saying this is because he wants to be alone with Helen,
mainly for one reason, the reason being that he wants to sleep with
Helen makes out that Jo is jealous of what her and Peter have, any
normal mother would not say this to their child. As why would Jo be
jealous when she repeatedly tells Helen that she doesn’t want to be
like her mother, and also why would a child be jealous of her mothers
A redeeming quality would be to show affection towards Jo something
that she has never done, i.e. comforting her when she is down and
listening to her opinions.
A redeeming point is when she asks Jo on page 22 what her opinion is
on her re-marrying, this shows that she wants her daughters blessing
In act one scene two Helen shows concern over why Jo is late home,
when she realises that she has been with a boy she does the typical
mother thing, by asking loads of questions like his age and what he
does for a living, this shows that she is showing an interest, she may
understand that she shouldn’t get involved but feels that she should
know a little bit about the boy her daughter is with.
Helen tries to make Jo feel good about herself by saying that she
would put her daughter in films, the only reason she say this is
because she wants boys to be attracted to her daughter, and also for
her daughter to feel that men will be attracted to her.
Helens husband is a tender subject; she seems to avoid any discussion
which involves him or what happened, when Jo discusses with her mother
about her husband Helen either ignores the question or changes the
subject, sometimes the truth hurts and this seems to make Helen hurt
inside, the fact that Jo wasn’t her husbands baby and that Jo is the
reason why Helen was thrown out.
Helen tries to give Jo advice on how she controls her own destiny;
this is when she reveals that she is getting married.
Helen shows concern for Jo when she notices that Jo is smoking as she
says “you’ve got enough bad habits without adding to your repertoire”,
but straight after she says this she shows more concern for her
appearance, until she talks about herself we get the impression that
she is trying to show her daughter the right thing to do.
Helen explains to Jo that if you see something you want then go for it
as Jo says “he’s got a wallet full of reasons”; this also implies that
she is only with him because he has a lot of money.
Helen does not want her daughter around during her honeymoon.
Helen shows concern for Jo when she asks Peter to lend her a quid to
give to Jo while they are away, she doesn’t want to leave her daughter
with nothing, but we also feel that no mother should go off and leave
their child alone.
Helen wanted to give Jo the privilege of being her bridesmaid; this is
a redeeming quality as she wants Jo to be a part of her wedding.
Helen shows no respect for her daughter when she breaks the cord which
holds the ring that Boy gave her, this is when Helen realises that Jo
is getting married and she doesn’t want her to make the same mistake
as she did, Helen feels that this is a bad decision that Jo has made,
Helen thinks that as soon as she turns her back then Jo will run off
with Boy which will ruin her life, something in which Helen doesn’t
want to happen to her daughter. As soon as Jo mentions her father
Helen starts to explain what he was like you can tell that she had
more consideration for him than her husband, although she admitted to
Jo that he was a little retarded, Jo didn’t like hearing the truth,
Helen told her straight rather than making up a stupid story, this is
redeeming as no mother should lie to their child, they should always
be honest even if the truth does hurt.
Helen tried to explain to Jo that her father was her first, and that
she will never forget it, which is a redeeming quality as she made Jo
feel special knowing that her father will never be forgotten.
Helen shows Jo affection when she asks for a kiss, this is something
which she doesn’t usually do, to us this is something we expect our
mother to do naturally rather than having a particular reason in which
to give her daughter a kiss.
Helen reminds Jo that if her husband to be doesn’t turn up then she
will be back, she is showing Jo that no matter what happens she will
not be forgotten.
In act two Helen makes Jo realise that she should appreciate Geof as
she is living off him and that she is looking after her, really the
person that should be doing this is Helen, as it’s the mothers place
to help their daughters through this difficult time, mothers can
always give you the best advice as they have gone through this
Helen shows concern for Jo’s baby as she starts asking her loads of
questions, she feel that it is wrong for Jo to be living off Geof,
this shows that Helen is maybe trying to tell her daughter that she
made it on her own and also that Jo is capable of managing on the
little money that she has.
Helen explains to Jo that she has come to see her to give her money
she doesn’t want her or the baby to live off nothing; she also
explains to Jo that she hasn’t been able to sleep since she found out,
although she doesn’t see Jo she is still on her mind as she is her
flesh and blood.
Helen doesn’t like it when Peter is shouting abuse at her daughter and
refuses to leave with him, she also tries to lure Jo to come and live
with her to live in a proper home with her baby, she is willing to
take care of Jo and to share her home as she says on page 67 “my home
is yours” which is then followed by Helen saying “I’ll take care of
you and see you through it”, Helen didn’t go to see Jo to help her at
first but as soon as she had seen the state in which her daughter was
in then she was willing to take responsibility, she doesn’t want Jo to
live in a hell hole.
Before Helen leaves with Peter she checks if Jo would rather that she
stayed with her.
In act two Helen arrives again but her and Jo seem to get on a lot
better she is concerned with how her daughter is feeling and is
pleased with how she looks.
Helen shows more interest for Jo’s baby, I think she is doing this
because she wants the best for her grandchild she doesn’t want to turn
out like they did with Jo, as Helen has got older she has got wiser
and has learnt from her mistakes.
Helen has even made the effort to come and look after Jo.
Although she does not like Geof she shows him manners by asking him
politely to leave while she speaks to her daughter.
You get the impression that Helen is back to help she shows interest
in how the baby is going to be looked after whilst Jo is in work and
who’s going to nurse it, you later then realise that she is back
because she has left Peter, its not that Jo needs her mum its more
like Helen needs her daughter, she doesn’t feel right without herm we
can tell this because when Helen was with Peter you got the impression
that Helen didn’t care about Jo, and she didn’t, not until she was no
longer happy and had no-one else she just didn’t realise how much she
Helen tries to redeem herself from all the trouble she has caused by
buying special things for the baby, and as soon as she realises that
Jo has got most things sorted she dismisses the conversation.
Helen thinks about her daughters situation and tells Geof not to wake
her, this is when you start to realise that Helen is beginning to
change and wants the best for her daughter.
We also notice that Helen wants people to think the best of her family
as she insists on the flat being clean and tidy for other people e.g.
Helen also cares about Jo’s diet this is unusual as on page 35 Peter
refers to Jo as being malnourished.
Helen doesn’t like people telling her how to deal with her own
daughter; she feels that her way is the correct way.
For the first time ever probably on page 85 Helen is discussing her
childhood memories with Jo.
On page 86 Jo now tells her mother that her baby may be black, Helen
reacts to this in a very shocking manner as she is lost for words, she
even says that she would drown it.
Helen is so distraught that she fails to tell Jo that Geof has left
and that he is not coming back, we are then left wondering whether
Helen will return.
At the beginning of the play I felt that Helen had no redeeming
qualities but towards the end you start to realise that she is older
and wiser and willing to help her daughter and to lead her in the
right direction, and at the very end I had the same opinion of her as
the beginning, she acted in a manner that no mother should.