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Anita and Me - Dialogue

This GCSE English Literature quiz is all about dialogue in Meera Syal's Anita and Me. Direct speech in fiction is referred to as ”dialogue”. Dialogue is especially important to characterisation, since it conveys information not only about the events with which the text is concerned, but also about the characters who are speaking. A reader’s mental impression of an individual character is heavily influenced by the content and style of that character’s speech. Dialogue is also an important way for an author to instigate action, keep the plot moving and show how characters develop.

Comparing and contrasting the speech of different characters is one good approach to thinking about dialogue in a work of fiction. See whether you can describe the differences between the dialogue of one character and another.

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How are the speech registers of characters differentiated? Do you discern different vocabularies? Who speaks formally, and when? Who uses slang or dialect, and when, or to whom? Can you discover any patterns?

Anita and Me presents a range of characters whose speech patterns depend upon their place in society. At one point, the wealthy Mrs Pembridge speaks and the villagers are shocked to hear from her dialect that she is no different from any of them: she is a miner’s daughter, in fact. Meena speaks in Standard English to her parents, while using local dialect to fit in with her neighbours. Language is also important, since Meena knows very little Punjabi, making her feel excluded from adult secrets, as well as from her family’s history.

One useful way to revise for a literature exam is by memorising dialogue. Choose a few key lines for each character, jotting down any links that exist between these lines and an important theme of the text. Using this technique will help you identify and remember quotations which might be useful for answering particular types of exam questions.

The quiz below asks you to remember which character speaks the given words. Consider the significance of the quoted dialogue before answering. Can you identify why particular lines are more representative of one character than another? What does this tell you?

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Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.
  1. "Now, for the last time, did Mr Ormerod give you those sweets for nothing? Or did you take that shilling from mummy's bag and spend it on yourself?"
    The novel opens with Meena being caught in a lie
  2. "Coz this ain't naff old Wolverhampton anymore. This, Pinky, is Tollington. Right?"
    Meena adopts the strong local dialect whenever she most wants to prove her identity as a resident of Tollington
  3. "She's been like this since she could talk! If it isn't rude things it is lies, always lies..."
    Meena's mother is in despair at her daughter's habit of lying, exaggerating and inventing fantastical stories
  4. "But really, Shyam-saab, you want your daughter to come home reciting hymns and what not? All that boring sitting around and amen this and that, no joy and those damn hard seats and that awful organ music, like a donkey in pain. Besides, you will confuse the girl"
    Auntie Shaila, who is not actually related to Meena's family, usually speaks her mind openly
  5. "These came this morning. She must have ordered them ages ago. She must have known she was going. And look, silly cow still don't know my size..."
    Meena learns to pity Anita when she sees how Deidre's abandonment of her daughter has affected her. Anita simultaneously recognises her mother's forethought in ordering her school uniform while seeing this as evidence that the abandonment had been long planned and that her mother does not care enough to know what size she is
  6. "I mean, Mrs Lacey, it's not just about giving them stuff, is it? It's about giving them culture as well, civilisation. A good, true way of living, like what we have. It's all very well just saying hee-yaar, get on with it but they'll just tek us for mugs. They'll want fans next, radios, cookers. I mean, we ain't a charity, are we?"
    Mr Ormerod is a devout Methodist concerned with converting people abroad to Christianity. He portrays the imagined recipients of his good-will as uncivilised and greedy for material goods
  7. "Sam and me were having a very interesting talk about blame and responsibility. About how easy it is to get angry with others for what's going wrong in your own life. Have you got any thoughts on this, Meena?"
    Uncle Alan focusses on trying to save Sam from his self-destructive path. He fails to consider how Sam's racism affects the much-younger Meena. In these lines he even tries to rope her in to his "rescue" of Sam
  8. "I served in India. Ten years. Magical people. The best"
    Mr Turvey, known to Meena as Mr Topsy, knows some Punjabi and is one of the only people in the village to be able to speak with Nanima. He has fond memories of the country even while recognising British culpability for its very recent colonial past
  9. "Yow won't be stayin will ya? You can move on. How come? How come I can't?"
    Meena finally confronts Sam near the end of the novel, letting him know how his racism affects her. Sam admits to jealousy and despair
  10. "Maybe you'll now listen to me, Daljit. She's not picking up the right influences here. So many good children to play with and she always finds the bad ones. I said we should move..."
    Meena's parents worry about the effects of her friendship with Anita

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