I believe that the Narrator makes his actions obvious and that Willy Russell has made sure that his audience see him as evil straight away because of he says and does. But I think that Willy Russell is hoping that his audience look deeper and don’t judge him based on his outward thoughts and sayings. I feel that there is something hidden underneath all the bad forebodings which he gives. There is something else to him and I think this is why I can see him as a moral guardian. From the opening of Act one he sets the scene. ‘He steps forward and starts to recite the prologue to his audience.
In this soliloquy he tells ‘the story of the Johnstone twins… how one was kept and one was given away… never knowing that they shared one name, till the day they died. ‘ This soliloquy is very effective in the fact that it allows the Narrator to prepare the audience for the morbid tale which will unfold in front of them. It’s true that what he says is very ominous, but this was the task which he was given, he had to prepare the audience for what was to come, as the Narrator of the play it is his duty to make the audience understand what is happening through out the play.
He goes on to judge Mrs Johnstone, encouraging the audience to do the same; he places the blame upon her shoulders. This shows just how powerful his role is in the play. He can blame this woman for killing her two sons, so does this mean he has a further insight into her? I mean is he somehow linked to her conscience? Does he know what thoughts are running through her mind? Because you can’t blame some in front of a large gathering of people without being sure that the blame is rightfully placed on that person, if it’s not then you will face the consequences. The Narrator takes this risk, but is it a risk?
I personally don’t think it is. I think that he knows what he is doing and he believes that Mrs Johnstone deserves to be blamed. Willy Russell has placed the Narrator in some different roles. It is significant to notice that in each of these different roles he delivers bad news, which therefore presents him as a figure of doom. The first role which he takes on is as a Milkman. He tells Mrs Johnstone he is ‘up to here with hard luck stories… no money, no milk. ‘ Its interesting to see how he shows no care or concern for Mrs Johnstone or her family, instead he remains impartial and detached.
Next we see him as the Gynaecologist and he delivers the unforeseen news to Mrs Johnstone, that she is expecting twins. While Mrs Johnstone opens up to him about her problems, he seems unconcerned and shows no compassion or care for her, instead he simply says, ‘congratulations. And the next one please, Nurse. ‘ ‘The next one’ shows just how much he doesn’t care, he feels that he is only doing his job and this woman is just another one on the list. While he is in these roles, it’s like he is an outsider looking in, he doesn’t know anything about Mrs Johnstone and instead treats her as he would a stranger.
But he is not like this while he is the Narrator, instead he has an opinion about everyone, he knows them and he knows the cause of their actions. You can see the contrast of his character and we have to ask ourselves why does he have an opinion? Most Narrators in plays stay impartial, they tell the audience what is happening but they never say what they think of it. This Narrator is different, he does care, even though at the start of the play it seems as if he thinks bad of everyone, we see a different side to him as it progresses. He really is a character in the play in his own right.
After Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons make their pact he enters again and says, ‘How swiftly those who’ve made a pact, Can come to overlook the fact. Or wish the reckoning to be delayed But a debt is a debt, and must be paid. ‘ Here I can see him taking on the role of a moral guardian, as he is showing that he disapproves of the pact that has been made. I know that some would argue that he acts as a figure of doom as he is stating ominously that Mrs Johnstone cannot escape from her fate. But I don’t agree. I think that he recognises that Mrs Johnstone will not find it easy giving up her child but warns that she will have to.
He is not necessarily blaming anyone here, instead he is reminding them that their pact is binding and they will have to carry it out. I sense that since this pact has been made he feels that it should be carried out, he is like a judge here when he says, ‘must be paid. ‘ He knows they can’t go back on their word because they swore on the bible, so could he have been sent to make sure that the deed is done? Because of the pact being made on religious grounds, maybe it is his job to make sure that it is carried out. Could he have come from a higher power?
Could he be seen as an angel? I think later on in the play we find the answers to these questions. After Mrs Lyons goes back on her promise to Mrs Johnstone, the Narrator is seen again. This time he starts to sing a song which contains very disturbing lyrics. ‘Now y’know the devil’s got your number, He’s gonna find y’… He’s knocking at your door. ‘ These lyrics most certainly present him as a figure of doom. He builds up the tension of this scene and Willy Russell effectively uses him as a dramatic device to engage the interest of the audience.
He creates tension and fear through this song amongst the audience and we expect the worst. I know that this song definitely casts him in a negative light, but we can see the nod to religion here again. He sings about the ‘devil’ and how he is after both Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, this is out of character for ‘a devil’ and I feel that something is not right. If we were to assume that the Narrator is from a higher power then it would be him who would be after Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons for what they have done, but instead he sings about the devil.
I think he wants to draw the attention away from himself as we are starting to see him as something else. I feel he is using the devil to highlight the wrong doing which has happened between these two women and how it should have never been allowed to come to past. The one thing which I feel I must point out, is how religion is never openly mentioned in this play and you may be wondering why I keep referring to it, but I can see how some of these events have religion entwined in them. I think religion, though never mentioned is a key part to understand this play and the Narrator himself.