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Anita and Me - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz asks questions on theme in Meera Syal's Anita and Me. Theme, in literature, is an idea conveyed by a text. Of course, every work of literature has more than one idea, so we usually think about themes, plural! The themes of an individual text will range from the most obvious of ideas to the most subtle. They also work in combination and you can often see an interplay of themes in a text as each theme develops alongside the others. Authors use the essential elements of fiction, including setting, character, plot and dialogue, in order to develop theme.

You will certainly have noticed the way that related ideas and concepts appear repeatedly throughout a text you’re reading. Such repeated ideas are the text’s themes. Think about the way these ideas are each introduced and developed over the course of the text.

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One good place to begin with a thematic analysis is by examining your own opinions, especially if you find that you have reconsidered - or even changed - any of your own ideas about the issues raised in the text. If a text makes you think hard about an issue or persuades you to change your mind, then the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of its themes. Perhaps you’ve found that you disagree strongly with other readers, your classmates, or your teacher. If you stop to think about it, such disagreement should be expected: it would be very odd to share identical views with everyone else. Readers’ individual responses depend on their having brought individual thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration of the text.

After you finish reading a book, spend a little time comparing the thoughts and views you hold at its end with those you held before you began. Have any of your views changed? Have any been confirmed, or even strengthened? Can you identify why/why not? See whether you can point out the specific places in the text which challenged or confirmed your personal views.

The themes of this novel include the experience of growing up, family, friendship, culture, belonging, racism, and the relationship between fiction, myths and lies, among others. Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of Anita and Me.

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  1. "I'm not really a liar, I just learned very early on that those of us deprived of history sometimes need to turn to mythology to feel complete, to belong." This final sentence of the Epigraph touches on which of the novel's themes?
    Meena, as narrator, recognises that her early desire to embroider the truth, to invent fantastical stories, resulted from a loss of identity as someone "deprived of history"
  2. Which one of the following is NOT an instance when Meena unexpectedly finds herself confronting racism?
    Meena confronts racism from her fellow pupils at school, from Anita and her family, from Sam and even from elderly drivers in Birmingham. These confrontations are crucial to her development as she grows up
  3. "Hiya Robert...how'm you feeling?" How does Meena speak when she is finally able to talk face to face with Robert?
    Meena adopts a solid regional accent when she wishes to show that her identity is unquestionably West Midlands. Robert responds: "Ey up, yow'm a real Midland wench, our Meena! I thought you'd sound a bit more exotic than this!"
  4. How do Meena's parents and their friends spend their time when they visit each other's houses?
    The Aunties cook Indian foods together and everyone enjoys Meena's papa's musical performances. Together the group of friends preserve and pass on their memories of home
  5. "I knew I was a freak of some kind, too mouthy, clumsy and scabby to be a real Indian girl, too Indian to be a real Tollington wench, but living in the grey area between all categories felt increasingly like home. And Anita never looked at me the way my adopted female cousins did; there was never fear or censure or recoil in those green, cool eyes, only the recognition of a kindred spirit, another mad bad girl trapped inside a superficially obedient body." Which of the following is correct?
    Belonging to the culture of her parents and their Indian friends, like belonging to the village, sometimes feels to Meena like an act, a part she can play through her speech and behaviour. Feeling at home by not fully belonging to any group is a paradox
  6. Which of the following describes part of Meena's home?
    Meena is embarrassed that her bedroom is not a "proper girly hang-out" like Anita's. Meena's kitchen and sitting room are, however, comforting and comfortable. Meena envies Anita's grown-up glamour, while not recognising the security offered by her own home
  7. The majority of the novel takes place during which time period?
    Many of the key events take place during the summer. Meena's riding accident means that she spends much of her final year of primary school in the hospital
  8. Which of the following best describes Anita's attitude towards friendship?
    Anita wants always to be the admired one in her circle of friends. She therefore competes with the girls closest to her and requires Meena to follow her around without question. She mocks other people and wants what they have
  9. Which of the following is NOT an example of change experienced by the village of Tollington?
    In the past all of the village men were employed in the mine. When the village lost the mine, these industrial jobs were replaced by jobs for women. In the mornings the Ballbearings women take the bus to work while their husbands remain home
  10. What are Nanima's final words to Meena as she leaves the hospital to return to India?
    This line could be read in two ways. Either Nanima is making an effort to speak these parting words to her granddaughter in Meena's own language, or Meena has learned sufficient Punjabi to understand these words of blessing without translation. Not sharing a mutual language is a sorrowful barrier between Meena and Nanima

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