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Mother’s Day Summary in English by J.B Priestley
|Writer Name||J.B Priestley|
|Born||13 September 1894, Manningham, Bradford, United Kingdom|
|Died||14 August 1984, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom|
|Spouse||Jacquetta Hawkes (m. 1953–1984)|
|Movies||Dangerous Corner, An Inspector Calls|
Mother’s Day Summary in English
When the play opens, Mrs Anne Pearson, in her forties, is talking to her friend Mrs Fitzgerald. Mrs Fitzgerald has been predicting Mrs Pearson’s fate, as the play opens. Mrs Pearson is a pleasant but worried-looking woman while Mrs Fitzgerald is older, heavier and a strong and intimidating personality. Mrs Fitzgerald tells Mrs Pearson to assert herself as the head of the family. She adds that it is high time Mrs Pearson let her family know how important she is to them.
Mrs Pearson tells her friend, apologetically, that it was not as easy as it seemed, because although her family was very thoughtless and selfish, she loved them. She felt that they didn’t mean to be as terrible as they were. However, Mrs Fitzgerald insists that they ought to learn to treat her appropriately. She tells her not to run after them all time and take their orders as if she were the servant in the house. She stayed at home every night while they went out enjoying themselves. She feels that this situation was harmful for all of them.
Mrs Pearson agrees with Mrs Fitzgerald, but is uncertain whether it would have any effect on them. She does not want to create any unpleasantness in the family. Moreover, she has thought of it often but does not know how to begin. She glances at her watch and jumps up to cook for her children and her husband, as they would be home any minute. Mrs Fitzgerald holds her back and tells her to begin asserting herself immediately. Mrs Pearson is a little hesitant as she is not sure of herself. Mrs Fitzgerald offers to help her but Mrs Pearson is reluctant as her family would hate an outsider’s interference. But Mrs Fitzgerald has an idea.
She tells Mrs Pearson that they could exchange their bodies, i.e., instead of looking like themselves they would look like the other. Mrs Fitzgerald then holds her hand and asks her to keep quiet for a minute. They stare at each other and Mrs Fitzgerald mumbles ‘‘Arshtatta dum—arshtatta lam—arshtatta lamdumbona…” and they assume each other’s personality. The roles are now reversed. Mrs Pearson becomes bold and dominating and Mrs Fitzgerald is nervous and trembling.
The first evident change is that Mrs Pearson notices the cigarette in Mrs Fitzgerald’s mouth, snatches it and puts it in her own. Mrs Fitzgerald, now with Mrs Pearson’s personality, looks down at herself and sees that her body has changed and screams out of fright. Now, Mrs Fitzgerald is nervous and Mrs Pearson, confident. Mrs Fitzgerald is afraid what would happen if they could not change back to their original forms but Mrs Pearson jokes that she would enjoy herself more as Mrs Fitzgerald. She then assures her friend that they would change back easily. Mrs Pearson, who is Mrs Fitzgerald in reality, goes out leaving the actual Mrs Fitzgerald in Mrs Pearson’s body behind.
Mrs Pearson is playing patience and smoking when her daughter Doris Pearson, a pretty girl in her early twenties, enters. She tells her mother to iron her yellow silk dress as she had to wear it that night. She notices her mother, sitting at the table playing ‘patience’ and smoking, to her amazement. She asks her what she is doing. Mrs Pearson, answers her complacently that she was not whitewashing the ceiling. She adds that there is no law against smoking. She also tells her that she had not made her tea and would have her meal at the Clarendon.
Doris cannot believe her ears. She is angry and insists that her mother make tea and iron her dress. However, Mrs Pearson firmly tells her not to talk rubbish as she was working twice as hard and getting no wages or thanks for it. She then asks Doris where she wanted to wear her yellow dress to. Doris tells her that she was going out with Charlie Spence. Mrs Pearson tells her to find someone better than the buck-toothed, half-witted man.
Doris is offended and runs out. Mrs Pearson laughs and starts putting the cards together when her son Cyril walks in and asks for tea. She behaves nonchalantly, but he insists on her getting the tea and his clothes ready.
He reminds her of the promise she had made that morning, to mend his clothes. He is surprised to hear that she doesn’t “like mending”. She goes on to tell him that when he does not want to do something, he does not do it. She planned to do the same. Cyril could not believe his ears.
Just then, Doris enters and Mrs Pearson, seeing that Doris has been crying, says that she wouldn’t look so pale and red-eyed even for Charlie Spence. Doris accuses her mother of making her cry. Doris and Cyril are even more surprised when their mother asks for strong beer.
When Mrs Pearson walks out, Doris and Cyril discuss that there is something wrong. Doris tells Cyril that she was smoking and playing cards when she came in. Doris feels that she looks a little different but Cyril has not noticed that. They try to fathom what the problem with her is, whether she had gone crazy or had a concussion. They laugh at the idea of her having gone crazy and decide to wait till their father returns.
Mrs Pearson returns, carrying a bottle of beer and a half-filled glass. She tells them to tell her the reason for their amusement. Doris retorts that she had never understood their jokes. Mrs Pearson rudely tells her that she was bored at their jokes even before they were bom. Doris is tearful and Mrs Pearson tells her that all they do is come in, ask for something, go out again, and return when there is nowhere else to go. Cyril again asks for tea, telling her that he had been working for an eight-hour day. Mrs Pearson says that she had done her eight hours and henceforth she would work only for forty-hours a week. At the weekend she would have her two days off. Both the children are surprised. Doris tries to re-confirm if the mother would not do anything on Saturday and Sunday.
Mrs Pearson replies that she might make a bed or two and do a bit of cooking “as a favour” but that would be conditional to the fact that she is asked very nicely and thanked for everything and generally made a fuss of. Mrs Pearson tells her daughter that in case they do not like the arrangement, she would go elsewhere for the weekend. When Doris questions her, Mrs Pearson tells her they had no right to question her as to where she would go and with whom she should go. These were the replies that she had got from them, and she was certainly a lot older and better able to look after herself. When Doris breaks into tears, she tells her not to be a baby. If she was old enough to go out with Charlie Spence, she ought to be old enough to behave properly.
Soon Mr George Pearson, Mrs Pearson’s husband, enters. He notices Doris crying and he wants to know the cause. She tells him that he would soon know the cause. George then notices Mrs Pearson sipping beer and is shocked. He expresses his surprise and tells her that “it doesn’t look right”. Mrs Pearson replies that it is “a nice change” and it had been quite some time since he was surprised at her.
When he tells her that he did not want tea as he was going for a special snooker match night at the club, she tells him the tea is not ready, in the first place. He is angry and she reminds him that he was annoyed because he didn’t get the tea that he did not event want. She adds that if he did that at the bar—did not ask for beer but showed irritation since it had not been poured out for him—they would laugh at him even more than they did. George was indignant and she added that he was one of their standing jokes and that he was called “Pompy-ompy Pearson” because they thought that he was slow and pompous.
She was surprised that he spent so much time at a place where people always ridiculed him, leaving his wife at home.
Just then, Cyril enters and George tries to confirm these facts with him. Cyril is embarrassed and reluctant but admits to it. George is shocked and Cyril accuses his mother of not being fair and sensitive. She says that sometimes it does people good to have their feelings hurt. The truth ought not to hurt anybody for long. If George didn’t go to the club so often, perhaps people there would stop laughing at him. When Cyril disagrees with her, she tells him that his opinion was irrelevant as he knows nothing, and spends too much time and money at greyhound races, dirt tracks and ice shows.
There is a knock on the door. Cyril tells his mother that the silly old Mrs Fitzgerald from next door is there. She informs her son that Mrs Fitzgerald was a very nice woman, with a lot more sense than he would ever have.
She invites Mrs Fitzgerald in. Mrs Fitzgerald has come to inquire if all was well. Cyril said it was not, but Mrs Pearson insists that all was well. When Mrs Pearson shouts at Cyril, Mrs Fitzgerald protests but Mrs Pearson tells her not to interfere. When Cyril goes to the kitchen, Mrs Pearson assures her that she had only done what was required—putting them back in their place.
Mrs Pearson tells Mrs Fitzgerald that she had told George what they thought of him at the club and assures her that all would turn out well. George enters and uneasily asks Mrs Fitzgerald if she had just dropped in Mrs Fitzgerald, in her nervousness, calls him George (She is in reality his wife, Mrs Pearson, who is in Mrs Fitzgerald’s body). George is surprised but Mrs Pearson covers up for Mrs Fitzgerald saying that his name was George, and not the Duke of Edinburgh. George is angry and he lists all that she had done since evening. Mrs Fitzgerald is upset but George tells her to stay out. Mrs Pearson defends Mrs Fitzgerald, saying that George had no manners as he had just marched in and sat down without even wishing her. She asks George to go to the club. George loses his temper and asks Mrs Pearson what was wrong with her. Mrs Pearson jumps up savagely to slap, his face. Mrs Fitzgerald tries to stop her, calling her Mrs Fitzgerald and this confuses George.
Just then, Doris enters and Mrs Fitzgerald asks her why she is not out with Charlie Spence. Doris tells her to mind her own business but Mrs Pearson cuts her short. She says that she would not have her daughter talking to anybody like that. Doris looks at her father for help but he expresses his helplessness. Mrs Pearson asks Doris to answer Mrs Fitzgerald politely. Doris tells her that she has cancelled her going out with Charlie Spence as her mother had said that he had buckteeth and was half-witted. When Mrs Fitzgerald protests, Mrs Pearson tells her that she could manage her family. George expresses his surprise when he sees Mrs Pearson insulting her friend, Mrs Fitzgerald, but Mrs Pearson snaps back at him telling him to go to the club.
This was too much for the real Mrs Pearson to bear. She protests, telling the real Mrs Fitzgerald that it was quite enough. George and Doris are confused. Mrs Fitzgerald tells them that she wants to have a private talk with Mrs Pearson, and would be obliged if they left them alone for a few minutes. George and Doris go out. The real Mrs Pearson (now Mrs Fitzgerald) wants to change back as she could see a great difference already. Mrs Fitzgerald chants the same words and they revert to their original personalities.
While Mrs Fitzgerald had enjoyed the change, Mrs Pearson had not. Mrs Fitzgerald advises Mrs Pearson not to be soft and waste all these efforts. Mrs Pearson feels that her family would behave better but is not sure how she would explain her behaviour. Mrs Fitzgerald tells her not to be soft and make sure that they behave well. She asks Mrs Pearson if she would not enjoy them staying at home, at times, or helping out whether they enjoyed or not. Mrs Pearson admits that she too would enjoy her leisure at times and spend that time playing cards.
When Mrs Fitzgerald leaves, the three—George, Doris, and Cyril—look anxiously at Mrs Pearson, who smiles. They are much relieved, and smile back at her. Mrs Pearson tells them that since they have decided to stay at home, they would have a nice family game of rummy—and then the children could get the supper ready while she talked with their father.
All of them agree. Mrs Pearson wishes Mrs Fitzgerald goodbye and the family comes together around Mrs Pearson.
Mother’s Day Summary Questions and Answers
Who is Mrs Fitzgerald? What does she advise Mrs Pearson?
Mrs Fitzgerald is Mrs Pearson’s neighbour and friend. A fortune teller, who had learnt the art from the East, she tells Mrs Pearson that her fortune could turn either way. With effort and counsel, the situation would swing in her favour. She advised her to assert herself as the boss of the house.
What was Mrs Pearson’s reaction to Mrs Fitzgerald’s advice?
Mrs Pearson said that it would not be easy to put her family members in place as she was very fond of them. She knew that they were thoughtless and selfish but felt, perhaps, they did not mean to be so.
What was Mrs Fitzgerald’s opinion of Mrs Pearson’s attitude?
Mrs Fitzgerald said that Mrs Pearson’s family was undoubtedly spoilt. She felt that it was Mrs Pearson’s attitude that did them no good, tending to their needs, taking their orders, and staying at home every night while they went out enjoying themselves.
What does Mrs Fitzgerald offer to do for her?
Mrs Fitzgerald sensed that Mrs Pearson was far too gentle, submissive and generous to tackle her family.
Mrs Fitzgerald offered to make them realize the error of their ways not as Mrs Fitzgerald but as Mrs Pearson. She offered to change their bodies and change back again.
How did the two women react after their bodies were changed?
When Mrs Pearson looked down at herself in Mrs Fitzgerald’s body, she gave a scream of fright. On the other hand, Mrs Fitzgerald is rather pleased and feels that the transition was so neat that she did not even know that she had it in her.
What is Doris’s first reaction on seeing her mother? Why?
Doris was taken aback to see her mother smoking and playing cards. When Doris asks her what she was doing, she is startled to get her answer ‘whitewashing the ceiling.’ Moreover, her conduct was not nervous and apologetic but cool and incisive.
What did Doris want her mother to do? How did the mother react?
Doris wanted her to iron her yellow silk dress that she ‘must wear’ that night. She also wanted her mother to make tea for her. She refused to get her tea and iron her dress, telling her that she put in twice the hours Doris did but got neither wages, nor thanks for it.
What does Mrs Pearson say to Doris that really bothered her?
Mrs Pearson asked where Doris would wear her yellow silk dress. She said that she planned to go out with Charlie Spence. Mrs Pearson told her to find somebody better, and insulted Charlie Spence by calling her buck-toothed and was half-witted.
What does Mrs Pearson have to say to Cyril that shocks him?
When Cyril walk in and insists on her getting the tea and his clothes ready, he is stunned to hear that she doesn’t ‘like mending’. She goes on to tell him that when he does not want to do something, he does not do it. She planned to do the same. Cyril could not believe his ears.
What do Doris and Cyril feel about Mrs Pearson’s changed behaviour?
Doris and Cyril discuss that there is something wrong with their mother as she is not behaving in character. They discuss how Mrs Pearson behaved oddly with each of them. They try to fathom if she had gone crazy or had a concussion.