Anita and Me - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge you on character. Meera Syal’s semi-autobiographical novel, Anita and Me, is narrated by its central character, Meena Kumar. Meena’s family includes her mother, father, brother Sunil, and grandmother. Anita is the older girl whom she idolises and Sherrie and Sally are the two friends who accompany Anita almost everywhere. Other characters who live in the village include neighbours such as Mr and Mrs Worrall, Mr and Mrs Christmas, the Mitchells, and Hairy Neddy, as well as authority figures such as Uncle Alan and Reverend Ince. The shopkeeper, Mr Ormerod, friends of Meena’s family, the Aunties and Uncles, and Meena’s own friends, including Sam and Robert, also play important roles in the novel.

Meena is much younger than the other key characters, with the exception of Tracey. The reader is therefore presented with a child’s limited understanding and sometimes can perceive the gap between Meena’s observations and her understanding of other people.

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This works well both to show the distance which the narrator, who is narrating from an adult perspective, looking back on her childhood, has travelled, as well as being a source of humour, too, as the reader understands so much more than the young Meena is able to comprehend.

In order to better understand the role of each character in a work of fiction, pay close attention to the way in which they interact with one another. Where there is a first-person narrator, you should also analyse how each character is represented by the narrative voice. The first person narration of Anita and Me limits the reader’s view of other characters and their motivations to whatever Meena herself knows or comes to understand as she grows older. Thus, we come to know Meena best as we perceive all events in the novel, and all other characters, through her eyes.

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in Anita and Me.

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  1. What does Meena, as narrator, tell the reader about herself in the "Epigraph"?
    The narrator first tells the story of her parents' arrival in Britain as "simple" Punjabis cut off from world events before revealing that this is the version of her past reserved for credulous job interviewers or dates
  2. Which of the following is NOT correct of papa?
    When we are first introduced to papa, he is marching Meena to Mr Ormerod's shop to check whether her story that the shopkeeper gave her sweets for free is true. His disappointment in his daughter, after she admits to lying, is overwhelming. He is entertaining and optimistic and devotes his life to his family, never mentioning work and always solicitous of his wife's and daughter's well-being
  3. "My mother knew from experience that she would get fewer stares and whispers if she had donned any of the sensible teacher's trouser suits she would wear for school, but for her, looking glamorous in saris and formal Indian suits was part of the English people's education." What does this sentence tell the reader of mama's character?
    While Meena's father wears a suit for going out, her mother wears a sari, despite knowing that people will stare. Rather than changing her behaviour, she believes that she has a duty to educate ill-informed English people and also clearly believes them capable of change (not surprising, considering she is a teacher!)
  4. "She was a symbol of something I'd noticed in some of the Tollington women, a stoic muscular resistance which made them ask for nothing and expect less, the same resignation I heard in the voices of my Aunties when they spoke of back home or their children's bad manners or the wearying monotony of their jobs." This quotation describes which character?
    Meena is awed to realise how difficult Mrs Worrall's life is, caring for her shell-shocked husband without complaint
  5. How do Pinky and Baby respond to Meena's theft of the collection tin from Mr Ormerod?
    Pinky and Baby do not give Meena away; she, on the other hand, does not hesitate to pin the blame on Baby
  6. Who sometimes provokes a protective response from Meena?
    Meena often feels sorry for Tracey, at one point reporting: "Tracey was at least six inches taller than when I had last seen her - the day of the Peeing Competition - and the pinched, wan features had rearranged themselves into a compact heart-shaped face of such sweetness and sorrow that I felt like gathering her up from the kitchen lino and feeding her something hot"
  7. Which of the following adjectives best describes Sam?
    Sam does not know where to direct his anger; his racism partly results from resentment at watching people who have come to Britain from other countries succeed where he only expects failure in life
  8. Who understands Meena better than any of her other friends?
    Robert and Meena first communicate through glass, using a combination of signs and written messages. After a short time they are able to complete each other's sentences and respond to questions before they have even been asked
  9. What is Meena's first impression of Nanima?
    Meena knows her grandmother is fun from the moment she laughs at the sounds made by the "farty" sofa
  10. Which of the following does NOT describe Anita?
    Anita is extremely competitive; she rarely displays any vulnerability and if she does, she immediately disguises it with anger

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