In this play, there are three main girls in Billy Fishers life. Barbara, who is the old fashioned type who believes in a perfect future with two children and a lovely cottage in Devon, Rita, who is a loud mouthed girl with a “sluttish” appearance and Liz, who can never rest in one place but is very similar to Billy in her thinking.
We are led to believe by the writer that Barbara is a very slow thinker. There are quite a few points in the play where we see this but I think the most obvious one is when Rita comes into the Fisher household and starts shouting about what she and Billy have been doing down at Foley Bottoms. Even though it is plainly obvious what she is talking about, Barbara still says to Billy ” Billy, have you been having relations with this girl?”. This is emphasized even more when the stage directions say; (finding the right words at last).
We are also shown that Barbara is afraid of physical contact, especially from Billy. She is very old fashioned with her morals about sex and marriage. She thinks it very indecent of Billy to be anywhere near her. This is shown when Billy says to Barbara; “I love you darling”, and the stage directions (taking her in his arms) and Barbara’s answer “I love you”, and the stage directions (moving away). This stage direction is very precise and helps to get a clearer picture of what is happening in the scene and also adds to the impression that we get of Barbara’s character.
We are encouraged to think that Barbara is very dreamy and is always thinking about the perfect future for herself and Billy. She talks about “little Billy and little Barbara” and even has in her mind what the curtains in her imaginary home are going to be made out of. She says to Billy, “Oh, I’ve seen the most marvellous material to make curtains for the living room. Honestly, you’ll love it. It’s a sort of turquoise with lovely little squiggles like wine glasses.”
Barbara respects the family unit and does her best to fit in and not cause to much disturbance within the Fisher household. She tries to help Mrs Fisher when Florence has ‘one of her do’s’. She says, even though the proposal is a little bit stupid considering what is happening, “Would she like an orange, Mrs Fisher?”. She also insists on helping Mrs Fisher in washing up the pots. She has the most respect for the family out of the three girls but then again I think she feels the most comfortable in a family environment.
She is portrayed as being very quiet. In the whole of act 2 she says little to Rita even though she is shouting lots of things at her fiancï¿½e and at her which are hurtful. There is one part where Rita says to Barbara ” Oooh Billy will you kindly tell me? Aw, go take a long walk on a short pier, you squint eyed sow, you’re nothing else.” And Barbara just stands there and says nothing.
Barbara is also shown to be a perfectionist by the writer. She has a perfect future planned for herself and Billy. She is very blinkered and cannot see that the world is different from what she thinks. She has it planned right down to the last detail. She even knows what material she will be using to make the curtains in the living room, and says to Billy; ” Oh, I’ve seen the most marvellous material to make curtains for the living room. Honestly you’ll love it. It’s a sort of turquoise with lovely little squiggles like wine glasses”
Barbara is the kind of person whose idea of a perfect future involves her with her husband and the children in a little cottage in Devon. She wants the children to be called little Billy and little Barbara. She even worries about what will happen in this future and this is emphasised when she says “Do you think a lily pond is safe? What if the kiddies wondered too near and fell in?” This phrase also shows that she must be a worrier in reality as well. She says too Billy later in the play; “Do you think your mother’s going to like me, pet?”
The writers of Billy Liar give a very accurate description of Barbara in the way that her clothes almost match her personality. They describe her wearing a tweed suit and flat heels. This style of clothing is very boring and un-interesting for a nineteen year old compared to the description of Rita.
She is a very gullible person and even when Billy tells her he has been lying to her and he says he will never lie to her again she tells him that she believes him and says; “I believe you.” The shortness of the sentence suggests that she did not hesitate in answering him and telling him that she believed him. This shows that she is very trusting of him even though he has told her he has lied to her.
From her first appearance we can see what kind of person Rita is with her description. Her description is this; Rita approaches the house through the garden. She is a small girl with blonde hair – seventeen years old but she dresses to look much older. She is common and hard and works in a snack bar. This immediately puts a picture in our heads about Rita and what we expect her character to be like in the play. The words “common” and “hard” shows what kind of character she is going to turn out like. This immediately prepares us for her character and the impact she will have. It shows that she will play an important part in the play in terms of being aggressive and forceful. Compared to Barbara this description is entirely opposite and as you read through so is her character.
Rita is a very aggressive person to anyone who gets in her way and threatens to take what she wants. She is not afraid of using aggressive language to get what she wants and can be very hurtful too. Her character often says some very upsetting things to Barbara when she and Billy are arguing even though she knows that it is not Barbara’s fault and says to her at one point “Yes, you can go to her. She can have you. And she knows what she can do, the squint-eyed, bow-legged, spotty, snotty-nosed streak of nothing.”
We also find out that she has an incredible obsession with the ring that Billy has given to her. She likes being engaged to Billy and will stop at nothing to get the ring back that she thinks is rightfully hers. At one point she actually tries to fight Barbara to get the ring back off of her and says “I won’t threaten you-I’ll flatten you! Give me that cowing ring back!” and then makes a grab for Barbara’s hand.
She can be very sarcastic at times especially towards Barbara when they are fighting over the ring. When Barbara says to Billy, “Billy, have you been having relations with this girl?” and Rita’s answer is, “What do you think he’s been doing knitting a pullover?”.
Rita is disrespectful to Billy’s family when she shouts, “You can bring his rotten father down. I hope you do. And his rotten Grandma”. At this point Billy grandma is upstairs ill and dying. She says this when Mrs Fisher says she shall bring Billy’s Father down to sort her out.
When Billy tells her that the ring is at the jewellers she doesn’t believe him. This is because she has had experiences before with Billy lying too her. When he tells her that his grandma was taken ill she says, “My names not silly you know. Either you get me that rotten ring back or I’m going to see your rotten mother.”
She thinks that the little dreams of Barbara are silly. She shows this when she says to Billy, “Don’t come that tale with me. I said I didn’t want to live in a rotten cottage in Devon-that’s all.” She is not a very secure person and I think that writers want you to think that she is marrying Billy for a touch of security in her life.
Out of all the girls, I think that Liz is the one that Billy relates to the most. She has a similar mind to Billy and they are both dreamers. I think that we see this most clearly when she and Billy are talking about their own little country. Billy tells Liz about the little country he imagines and Liz says, “Do you do that? I knew you would. Why are we so alike, Billy? I can read your thoughts.” This shows the similarity between them.
Liz is written as a person who does not like to be tied down to one place for too long as she is always travelling around the country. Her character comes across as a very strong personality and a free spirit. She likes the uncommitted aspect of her life. This is emphasised when she says, “Its this town. It’s the people we know. I don’t like knowing everybody or becoming a part of things.”
She is shown by the writers to be very impulsive. When she is talking to Billy she takes the opportunity to persuade him to go to London as soon as it arises. She is also a very persuasive person with the way she makes Billy say he will go to London with her. This is shown when she says, “That’s a bit vague. Soon. Why not now?”
We are made to believe by the writers that Liz does not think about what the consequences will be if she goes to London with Billy. She does not care that Billy’s Grandma has just died and what he might be feeling like. She is slightly insensitive. When she is persuading Billy to come with her to London she does not once ask him whether he is feeling fine with that and if he really does want to go. This is shown when she says “But we can, Billy! We can! What is there to stop us?”
Throughout the play we are told that Liz is a very scruffy person but when we actually reach the part where she is in the play, the description of her is quite different from what we have been told. It says that she is “wearing the infamous skirt that we have heard so much about but it is not as dirty as we had been led to believe”. This makes us think that the impression that we have got of Liz from others is somewhat different and this suggests that they maybe do not like her very much and so are twisting the truth to let us think that she is not a very nice person.
When Billy talks about something Liz doesn’t want to talk about she changes the subject. This is shown when her and Billy are talking about the letters she writes to Billy and rips up. She says, “How’s Everything with you? How’s the script-writing? How’s the book coming along?” and the stage directions (changing the subject). This shows that she does not like talking about things that she has done and is almost embarrassed by them.
If I was asked which girl I would think Billy would be more likely go with I think I would have to say Barbara because she is the one that forgives him when he lies and is easier to please than Rita. Although Liz has got qualities, like having a lot in common with him, she cannot be depended on a great deal because she is always moving around, and Rita is very demanding of Billy and I don’t think she would forgive him if he lied. Barbara offers Billy the most security out of all of them and this is why I think he will pick Barbara.