In Act 1, it starts with Daisy doing the accounts in the kitchen for Rafe when Betsy-Jane, the next-door neighbour, come round because she wants to borrow five pounds from Daisy because she is behind on her payments for the television. Daisy does lend her the five pounds – without Rafes permission -, which shows that the Crompton family are better off. Betsy Jane makes a comment about Rafe being the boss before she leaves, “that jumped-up husband of yours handles it all,” Betsy Jane’s comments of Rafe and Daisy quite upsets Daisy but when Wilfred arrives he comforts her and tells her to “Take no notice of what she (Betsy Jane) says”.
Next Harold arrives and he and Wilfred have a small conversation of little importance. Then Hilda arrives happily as they have been celebrating at work, she tells of dancing and drinking wine. When Harold mentions they are having herrings Hilda says she has gone off them. Later when Rafe arrives, he instantly asserts his authority, as soon as he comes in. He also shows that he disapproves of smoking, drinking, and the magazines they read – basically he finds anything to moan about. In the following conversation we find out that Hilda’s a rebel, Florence is a daddy’s girl and that Rafe make his wife write down what she spends.
When they all sit down to dinner Hilda says “I don’t really fancy my herrings – if you don’t mind” so Rafe finds out as well that she has gone of herring. Rafe does mind and he insists that she eat it and when she refuses he say’s that she will have it every mealtime until she does. Later on all that happens is Rafe receives a new coat and Arthur, Florence’s boyfriend, comes and tells them that his boss is moving away and has offered him the job of working manager but he wants him to be married – he is already engaged to Flo – but Rafe doesn’t agree.
This scene starts right in the middle of the play and opens with only Daisy and Wilfred present. They are discussing the five pounds Betsy Jane has borrowed but not yet returned. Even though they are both, worried about the money their talk is quite calm, as both of these characters seem to be the most gentle and not as high strung as the others. However, of course Rafe mostly causes this tension. Even the mention of Rafe between Daisy and Wilfred causes the tension to rise slightly between them.
Next they start to discuss the herring their Hilda refused to eat and just at the mention of Rafe, who wants it put on her plate every meal until she eats it, the tensions start to rise. However, Wilfred sympathises with Hilda showing he has somewhat of a soft spot for her. Hilda then enters and Wilfred leaves the kitchen so Daisy and Hilda then start to talk about the herring also, which keeps the tension up slightly. Hilda then surprises Daisy by turning down the beef sandwiches she made on the sly and saying she has made a revolution to eat every bit of that rotten herring just to spite Rafe, it shows her rebellion more than anything does
This is the first time that all the characters are together in Act two, Scene 1 as Florence and Arthur enter through the front door, their first appearance in Act two also. Rafe decides that it has been a long time since they have heard Daisy sing and badgers her into singing around the piano with everyone. This shows that Rafe is very insistent and Daisy is bullied easily by Rafe and does not show very much resistance even though she obviously does not want to maybe as she is trying to get the tea on.
As everyone is singing Wilfred is acting very suspiciously, creeping in and out of the kitchen so the tension is rising at this point especially as all the family are now present including Rafe who makes everyone tense because of his character and everyone seems scared of him. The audience are aware of the herring all though the singing around the piano and after they are finished they all sit down for dinner this is when they find out that the herrings gone missing and this makes the tension rise even more.
Everybody except Rafe blames it on the cat but Rafe responds to this by saying: One of my cats wouldn’t do that, they all knew better’ Rafe is now determined to find out the truth about this missing herring and starts to interrogate them all. Tension in the room is now strong and there is an atmosphere that you could cut with a knife. Rafe then quickly works out that Wilf went out to the kitchen; he then orders Wilf to0 hold out his hands so he can smell them. This tells you something about Rafe’s character because he is very quick in finding out who did it and it shows that he is very observant to spot Wilf going into the kitchen whilst they were singing around the piano.
The tension has now started to mount even more as Rafe has singled Wilf out. As Rafe is interrogating them, it shows he is very dominant and his family are afraid of him. After smelling Wilfs hands as it says in the book, ‘Rafe knows something but keeps it to himself’. Then he starts to pick on Wilf insisting that he swear on the bible that he did not do it. This amazes everyone and they all try to save Wilfred even Arthur protests to Rafe that he should not ‘press the lad anymore’ but Rafe will not back down.
Everyone is very tense at this moment as the tensions are strong. The tensions have not yet got to the climax but everyone can see and sense that it soon will if Rafe continues to push. This shows you that Rafe is extremely insistent and stubborn – strong headed – as he just wont stop till he has found out the truth and got his own way also it shows even more what a bully Rafe is. The tension now reaches its climax as Rafe continues to push Wilf refusing to back down.
As the pressure mounts Wilfred faints as Hilda says ‘he’s having one of his turns’ – perhaps suggesting that Wilfred has epilepsy or something. The tensions then explode into anger and arguments because both Hilda and Harold are angry with Rafe. Hilda tells Rafe off, she is so angry she almost hits him with the bible but instead she says she cannot stay under Rafe’s roof and immediately leaves home there and then. When Wilfred comes round Rafe is immediately kind towards him, this does show Rafe is concerned and cares very much for Wilfred, also the tension has gone right down now.
This tells us Hilda can stand up to her father also proving she really cares for Wilf even though she doesn’t show it often in fact she shows even more dislike or even hatred of Rafe, Harold also shows this but doesn’t take extreme measures like Hilda by walking out. Even though now the tensions seem to have come down because Wilf has recovered but everyone becomes tense again especially Arthur and Flo. This is because Arthur seems to be distressed by what he has just seen and just explodes with anger and he tells Rafe exactly what he thinks of him.
Arthur tells Rafe he is a bully and he had no right pushing Wilf like that knowing full well about his turns. Arthur then gives Flo a choice between him and Rafe, she seems to be flustered by this but Flo then ceases the moment and chooses Arthur she leaves with him as the tears course down her cheeks. Arthur’s actions show he has the strength of character and bravery to stand-up to Rafe and that Flo feels loyalty to both Arthur and Rafe but is torn between them. The fact that eventually she decides on Arthur means she must care for him more than she realises or let’s on.
In the end of the play, Act 2 Scene 2, after Wilf has fainted and Arthur telling Rafe what he thought of him. Hilda was away all night but ended up staying at Betsy-Jane’s, the next day they both go to see Daisy while the other are at work and Hilda tells Daisy she plans to leave and go to London that very night. Daisy now feels she should give Hilda dome money before she goes to help her but Daisy does not have any and if she takes some from the savings, what will Rafe say? Betsy-Jane helps her to break into Rafe’s drawer but they can’t open the box the money is in, Daisy then starts to get really worried that Rafe will find out.
Daisy then pilfers Rafe’s new coat to the money she needs for Hilda. Later when Wilf and Harold come home the also announce they are going to leave home like Hilda. When Rafe comes home Wilfred and Harold suggest he should go and listen to the Messiah and although is takes them some time to convince Rafe to go, because he does not think he will be there in time. When Rafe agrees both the boys offer to go and fetch his new coat for him but they do not realise Daisy has pilfered it.
After some discussion Rafe goes to fetch the coat himself from upstairs in his wardrobe, Daisy is quite worried now she thinks Rafe will be furious In conclusion, this scene (Act 2, Scene 1) starts at the middle of the play and the end builds up to the highest climax of the tension of the play. Notice the climax does not come at the end but in the middle. This is probably because like most stories it has a beginning where you are introduced and start to get to know the characters, the surroundings and the situation, a middle where all the action happens and the end where the conclusion is.
Tension is worst when Wilfred faints because this tension starts building up slowly throughout the play until they all get it out of themselves during the climax and after that in the end, they work things out eventually. Rafe causes almost all the tension and atmosphere in this play. Every time he came home from work or walked into a room the tension would instantly go up as they all seem scared of him and they try very hard to tiptoe around him in order not to upset him because he is such a prickly character.
As the story is mostly based about the fact that Hilda wont eat the herring and Rafe is forcing her to every mealtime until she does, this is also what causes the tension and leads up to the climax. However, this tension is also caused by Rafe because of his stubbornness and dominant character. As he is the boss he thinks everyone should obey him, including Hilda, although she is just like him – a prickly, rebellious character and Rafe is not prepared to back down.