My View of Mother’s Day: A play by J.B. Priestly
Mother’s Day is a play written in 1950 by the English novelist, playwright, screenwriter, broadcaster and social commentator John Boynton Priestly. His Yorkshire background is reflected in much of his fiction. Many of his plays are structured around a time slip, and he went on to develop a new theory of time, with different dimensions that link past, present and future. Priestly served in the British army during the First World War. After his military service, Priestley received a university education at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. By the age of 30, he had established a reputation as an essayist and critic. During the Second World War, he was a regular broadcaster on the BBC. The Postscript, broadcast on Sunday night through 1940 and again in 1941 drew peak audiences of 16 million. The University of Bradford awarded Priestley the title of honorary Doctor of Letters in 1970, and he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bradford in 1973.
The main characters in this play are:
- Mrs.Pearson: The play is centered around Mrs.Pearson’s family neglecting her and not valuing her
- Mrs. Fitzgerald (neighbour of Mrs. Pearson): She is a strong and sinister personality. She knows many tricks that she learnt from the East like exchanging bodies
- George Pearson (husband of Mrs. Pearson): He doesn’t spend time with his wife. He spends most of his time at the club. He doesn’t appreciate Mrs. Pearson’s contribution to the family
- Cyril Pearson (son of Mrs. Pearson): He spends too much time and money on entertainment. He has no regard for his mother
- Doris Pearson (daughter of Mrs. Pearson): She does not respect her mother and does not consult her on important matters
The literary elements in this play are:
- Setting: The play was written in 1950 and set in that time period. The scenes are set in the living room of a small semi-detached villa in a London suburb
- Tone: The play preaches good values without being preachy. This is achieved using humor.
- Foil: Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Fitzgerald are thematically opposite characters. This is highlighted by the exchange of bodies, which caused a shock to Mrs. Pearson’s family
- Conflict: The play highlights ‘Women vs. Society’ conflict. By depicting that even Doris, also a woman, has unfair expectations of her mother, the play portrays that this is a broad-based societal issue and not an isolated incident
Mother’s Day is a humorous portrayal of the status of the mother in a family. Mrs. Pearson, a pleasant woman in her forties, is very fond of her family despite them being selfish and thoughtless. She works tirelessly for their well-being, but in return, her children and husband show no sign of respect or gratitude. She wishes to stand up for her rights but does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings in the process. Mrs. Fitzgerald, a strong and sinister personality, proposes that they would exchange bodies, and Mrs. Fitzgerald would then teach a lesson to Mrs. Pearson’s family. Reluctantly, Mrs. Pearson agrees, and the rest of the play revolves around how Mrs. Pearson’s family reacts.
The Mother’s Day play humorously, yet effectively, conveys a strong message to its readers: women who do household work should not be neglected. Though a homemaker does not produce goods or services of monetary value, her services are essential for the sustenance of the family. She deserves her family’s respect and attention. She also deserves a chance to go out and take a break from her daily duties. People who go for a job work for about 8 hours a day and get holidays on Saturdays and Sundays. But a homemaker works throughout the day, throughout the week. Mrs. Pearson deserved her family’s gratitude and love.
Even though the concept of exchanging bodies is a fantasy, the rest of the play is very realistic and brings out a common social problem. Mrs. Fitzgerald is a strong personality whereas Mrs. Pearson is very gentle and does not stand up for herself. The exchange of bodies symbolizes the need for different personalities under different circumstances. To gain self-respect, Mrs. Pearson should have been more assertive. This is shown in the play through the exchange of bodies. Mrs. Fitzgerald was very aggressive, and this hurt the feelings of Mrs. Pearson’s family members. This shows that neither aggressive nor passive behavior is appropriate. People should be assertive based on the circumstances.
Homemakers have a job where
- They work long hours (more than 8 hours a day)
- They are not eligible for leave
- There is no chance for promotion
- There is no pay
To calculate the economic value of a homemaker’s work, one way could be to look into what that person could earn if she joins the workforce. If a woman had not chosen to become a homemaker, she may have achieved a higher level of education, received promotions, or even changed career paths. There is no way to truly know what her income would have been if she had stayed in the workforce. Another way is to calculate the market value of the housework where one could value it in terms of what the prevailing market price is to purchase the services of a nanny or the wages paid to workers for cleaning, cooking, and the like. However, the market values of different services may be misleading for calculation. There are many ongoing discussions about whether homemaker’s contributions should be part of GDP. However, due to the complications involved, it is uncertain whether they will be included. Whether calculated as part of GDP or not, the services of a homemaker are invaluable. We should respect all homemakers.
To get a realistic perspective, I interviewed my own mother, who is a great homemaker:
Krishna: How many hours do you work in a day?
Mother: I work 9–10 hours a day
Krishna: What are the different roles you play as a homemaker?
Mother: I take my son to classes, buy vegetables and other household items, cook, take care of the needs of my family members, keep the home clean, etc.
Krishna: Do you feel happy being a homemaker?
Mother: Sometimes I feel happy. Sometimes, when other relatives don’t give respect because I am a homemaker, I feel sad.
Krishna: Do you get frustrated at times?
Mother: Yes, sometimes I get frustrated because the work is very monotonous.
Krishna: What can we do to make your work easier?
Mother: My son and husband are already helping me because they are at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, they used to help to some extent and that makes things easier.
I request everyone to respect, appreciate and provide support to the primary homemaker in their family.