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Anita and Me - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Meera Syal's Anita and Me. Setting, in a work of fiction, refers to the time and the location in which the events of the story take place. Most works of fiction actually have more than one setting, since events usually take place in different locations, and at different times. Individual settings within a text can include natural features, buildings, vehicles and other spaces. Atmosphere, another element of setting, also changes multiple times over the course of a fictional work. It can be a useful exercise to contrast the different settings found in a text.

Events which occur as part of the background to a text also play a role in forming its setting. This can be especially important where political events or social changes play a role in a text’s plot or its themes. The impact of the British Empire and its role in the history of India and in the everyday lives of Indian families play a crucial part in the events portrayed in Anita and Me.

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This novel is set for the most part in a single, small village, encompassing most of the young Meena’s life experience. Although she and her family venture out from the village on some occasions, the perspective of the novel centres on the Kumar household, radiating outward from this stable point. Visits from Aunties and Uncles are recorded; Nanima arrives, bringing reminders of home; and the visiting fair and later, a demolition crew, bring further excitement. It is fitting that the end of the novel brings change in the form of a household move as well as a new school for Meena. Setting in the novel is therefore important not only in terms of the choice to move from one country to another, but also in creating the sense that with movement comes growth and change. Anita, for instance, is left behind without likelihood of positive change when Meena says her farewells.

Answer the questions below on setting in Anita and Me.

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  1. When is Anita and Me set?
    Mentions of Pan's People, the films Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Reita Faria's crowning as Miss World in 1966 as an early memory of Meena's place the time of the novel in the early 1970s
  2. Where is the novel set?
    The fictional village of Tollington is located in the region of the West Midlands known as the Black Country
  3. With which industry was Tollington associated?
    Tollington is an ex-mining village; the narrator reports that the mine once employed the entire village
  4. Which of the following best describes Tollington?
    The village is near enough to Wolverhampton to see its industrial chimneys on a clear day
  5. "It was a constant source of embarrassment to me that our front garden was the odd one out in the village, a boring rectangle of lumpy grass bordered with various herbs that mama grew to garnish our Indian meals. 'This is mint, beti,' she would say, plucking the top of a plant and crushing the leaves under my nose, 'This one thunia...coriander I mean...this lemon verbena, you can make tea from this...' I did not want things growing in our garden that reminded me of yesterday's dinner; I wanted roses and sunflowers and manicured hedges and fountains where the blackbirds would come and sip." Which of the following is correct?
    The garden symbolises the cultural differences between her parents and their English environment. Meena longs for a fantastical version of her neighbours' gardens while undervaluing her own, with its links to the foods of her parents' homeland
  6. Syal depicts Tollington as a close-knit community. Which one of the following settings does NOT contribute to this depiction?
    Sometimes the intimate nature of the village is too much for the young Meena, such as when Mr Mitchell conducts conversations from his outdoor toilet! Although it does provide for a common source of fear after a local child drowns there, the quarry pond is one of the village's few isolated, rather than communal, places
  7. Where does Anita and Meena's "gang" meet?
    Their "headquarters" are in a pigsty in a neglected part of the yard, surrounded by garages, sheds and stinging nettles. The description is far from the glamour the place seems to hold for the young Meena, enamoured as she is with Anita
  8. Which of the following is associated with Meena's kitchen?
    The kitchen of Meena's house features in many important scenes and sustains the family in more ways than one. "My mother would right now be standing in a haze of spicy steam, crowded by huge bubbling saucepans where onions and tomatoes simmered and spat, molehills of chopped vegetables and fresh herbs jostling for space with bitter, bright heaps of turmeric, masala, cumin and coarse black pepper whilst a softly breathing mound of dough would be waiting in a china bowl, ready to be divided and flattened into round, grainy chapatti. And she, sweaty and absorbed, would move from one chaotic work surface to another, preparing the fresh, home-made meal that my father expected, needed like air, after a day at the office about which he never talked"
  9. "When I looked at Mrs Christmas' frocks, I thought of tea by an open fire with an autumn wind howling outside, horses' hooves, hats and gloves, toast, wartime brides with cupid bow mouths laughing and waving their hankies to departing soldiers, like I'd seen on that telly programme, All Our Yesterdays." Contemplating Mrs Christmas' clothing transports Meena to which of the following?
    Whereas her mother's clothing transports her to an idealised India of peacocks, "dancing elephants", "honking taxis" and monsoon rains, Mrs Christmas' clothing conjures up a mixture of English imagery collected from film, novels and television programmes
  10. Which one of the following does NOT feature as a setting in the novel?
    This is a bit of a trick question! Although Meena herself does not visit India during the time period of the book, the country features as a setting for many of the stories her parents and Aunties tell

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