The plot of the story begins with Hobson, a respected shop owner, sighting in his 3 motherless daughters. He attempted to stamp out this behaviour by threatening to find them all husbands of his choosing. Unfortunately for him they all decided to line up husbands for themselves with the eldest, Maggie, accosting a lowly boot hand called Willie Mossop, Alice tokening a lawyer by the name of Albert Prosser and the youngest, Vickey, seized Freddie Beenstock, the heir to a corn warehouse.
This alone tells us about the standards and ambition of the three girls. Maggie, the elder more independent of the girls, picks a man whose only skill is to shape leather, but she has the ambition of starting up her own business with him and taking over from Hobson. The other two girls however have less ambition to be making their own living and are happy to marry men already established in their fields of work and live off of them, although at the time it was only considered that the man should earn the living and the woman should cook and clean. So in this respect Maggie was a much more modern thinking girl, in a time when very few women tried and even fewer succeeded in getting anywhere in society.
The issue of class is illustrated well throughout the play. Firstly when Hobson makes a fool of himself when Mrs. Hepworth, a very important high-class wealthy woman enters the shop to praise Wille for his work on her boats. It is irregular for a high-class person to do this to a lower class worker. Tubby Wadlow a worker tells her that Willie has made the pair of shoes than Hobson rudely comes in to the conversation get the wrong impression about what she is saying and begins to talk that he will punish him with the fault that he has made but she is really praising Wille. She says to shut Hobson up Hold youre tongue which means shut up. When Mrs. Hepworth leaves the shop Hobson is back to his ignorant self and begins to call Mrs. Hepworth because she came in to his shop and started to praise his workers. Everybody knows that Hobson is being his ill-mannered self.
When Hobson beats up Willie for getting engaged to his daughter Maggie he decides to beat him up with his leather belt. When he is about to do this he ducks and misses and for the first time Willie stands up for himself and threatens Hobson if he hits him he will walk out of the shoe shop and find work elsewhere. In the majority of the other scenes the audience laughs in these kinds of scenes, however the audience realise this is serious because they will go silent and not laugh. I have selected this scene for the reason that Hobson is middle class and Willie is working class so he ought to have a high opinion for Hobson and not speak against whatever he says but Willie stands up for himself.
Class is also shown when Vicky asks Hobson what do you think of Willie entering the family he says You cant have Will Mossop. Why lass his father was a work house brat. Therefore, he is trying to say people will laugh at him because Willie Mossop a poor a workhouse brats son has married in to a middle class family. Hobson soon becomes aware, with the aid of his drinking buddies that should he have his daughters married he would be required to pay the husbands settlements with which they are to take on the bother of looking after their wife. Hobson is outraged and rather forward thinking on this issue as he realises that his daughters are in fact rather useful to him in terms of looking after his shop when he is out socialising and getting intoxicated with his esteemed friends. At one point Hobson says, theres luxuries a man can buy too dear.
Settlements indeed! By this Hobson means that although he would like the peace of not having their rebellion around, he is not willing to pay to have them removed as they can be useful to him, to an extent he doesnt realise until theyre gone. This fact alone puts Hobson off of the marriage trail but by this time the idea had been taken on by the girls, in particular Maggie who has no trouble in wrestling her man from a weak challenge by Ada Figgins.
Within as soon had been informed of one of his underlings supposed affection for his most useful of daughters he took the belt to him. At the time the play was set in it was not unusual for a boss to hit a worker whether they had done wrong or not especially as Willie was more like a slave than an employee. So it was surprising to see the reaction taken by Mossop, who was not a confident person and was not used to the idea of marrying Maggie, when he defied the man who paid his (poor) wage and kissed Maggie, before walking out with his head held high.
This confidence was a sign of things to come from the most unlikely of people to take initiative and rebel against the norm. This new found belief was furthered when, with the aid of Maggie, Will set up shop in direct competition to Hobsons, and within weeks married Maggie who set about educating him. Needless to say without his best two workers Hobsons business fell drastically and aided by Hobson falling into Beenstocks corn cellar and causing damage, Alice and Vickey both married and left Hobson to live alone with 1 solitary worker.