In the play ‘Hobson’s Choice’, the character William Mossop takes a significant part throughout the story. Although he appears as a minor character near the beginning, he later becomes one of the most important characters. As his surroundings change with time, I think that his personality strengthens and develops in many ways. Overall, ‘Hobson’s Choice’ is a play based on a man called Henry Horatio Hobson. However, I find that the focus moves on to William, also called Willie and Will, as he succeeds to become the master of a boot shop from only being a boot-maker at start.
At different parts of the play, there are a lot of distinct evidences of how Will changes. As already mentioned above, Will is only a boot-maker of the poor working class. This play, set in 1880, clearly shows how poor people were treated, Will as an example. When he is first mentioned, there is quite a long paragraph of his description. This may have been done purposely in order to tell us that he is, or will become an important character. One of the words in that paragraph that really came to my mind was, that he is said to have been ‘brutalized’ as a child.
A high-class customer, Mrs Hepworth, offers him a visiting card as she is satisfied with the boots that he had made. As she tells him to take the card, he ‘expects’ the word ‘that’ to be a blow and bends down immediately. This reaction suggests how and how much he would have been abused before, for him to understand the simple word, ‘that’, as a hit. Later on, it is also told in the text that Will is illegitimate. Henry, the master of the boot shop, describes him as a ‘come-by-chance’ as well as insulting his father for being very poor and homeless.
Also, this would be Will’s first entry in the play, with a strong impression, which tells us briefly about Will’s past life. Not only that, Henry’s ignorance toward the talent of Will’s boot making had made him give only 18 shillings a week for Willie. This made me think that Henry’s behaviour towards Will could have been the main influence in his inhibited characteristics. Wills personality is also shown in diverse ways, such as his speech, actions and how other people treat him. First, I think that the writer intentionally uses some words to relate Will to being almost child-like.
After the talk with Mrs Hepworth, Will is told to go back down into the cellar. The word ‘dive’, that is used to describe his action, shows his shyness and how desperate he is to be away from people. Moreover, he is described as a ‘rabbit’ to show how he slipped down to the cellar. Carrying on, Maggie suggests that Will could move to a better shop, where he would be paid much more for his boot-making. However, he gives a straight reply that he would be ‘feared’ to go to another place. At this point, I felt that the writer emphasized Will’s reluctance of interacting and socializing with people, particularly strangers.
Also, this shows how Will lacks confidence in himself. Although all the above of Will’s characteristics may change, especially under the influences of other characters, I thought that the most important part of him lasted till the end. That would be his honesty. I decided to focus on the relationship of Will and Maggie, as that is where most of Will is shown to us. Maggie confesses her feelings to Will and hints the idea of their future together. Will, taken aback, tells her that ‘I’m none in love with you’. From this, you can tell that he is open-minded, and is always truthful; but can also hurt someone else’s feelings by being too honest.
Moreover, his honesty can be interpreted as stupidity sometimes. Maggie criticizes his poor effort in making the best of his life. As usual, his reply is a straightforward one. He says ‘I’m not ambitious that I know of’, which probably is the truth in this case. From this, you can see that his life would have not changed at all without the help from Maggie. At this point, I think Will can be seen as a stereo-type working-class man. Will’s first act of bravery is shown under the threat of Henry. It was highly unusual, almost impossible, for a boot-maker to get married to his master’s daughter in those days.
As Henry hears the news about the two of them, he decides to ‘leather’ Will; in other words whip him with a belt. Just as Henry is about to strike, Will talks back at him and quickly kisses Maggie. This can be seen as a sign that Will is already beginning to change. His action is described as it was done ‘with temper, not with passion’. In other words, he has no affectionate feelings towards Maggie. Therefore, this may be purely a sign of courage, which had never been seen before. On the other hand, it is told that Will had been very aware of Maggie as a woman from a long time ago.
Unfortunately, Maggie is not as beautiful as her two sisters in the play. However, Will tells us that Maggie has a ‘shapely body’. Although Will does not seem too keen on his marriage, this shows he is not totally uninterested in women in general. Until now, Will was not always shown in the play. However, as his marriage draws near, he appears more often in the play as he gets more involved with the Hobson’s family. As the family gathers around, Maggie suggests that her sisters should kiss their brother-in-law to be; in other words Will.