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My Mother Said I Never Should - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz will test you on character in My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley. My Mother Said I Never Should is extraordinarily spare in the numbers of characters it has. There are four characters who appear on-stage: Doris, Margaret, Jackie and Rosie. These figures appear as adults (Rosie only reaches the age of sixteen by the end of the play) and as young children. Other important figures are named, but never appear. These are Jack, Ken, and Doris’s mother. In some ways, character is not as important to the play as relationship. Each pair of women has a relationship which is distinguished from that between other pairs, while sharing some similarities.

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For example, Doris is much gentler and more affectionate with her granddaughter and great-granddaughter than she is with Margaret at any stage of Margaret’s life. At the same time, Margaret speaks to her mother with an impatience similar to Jackie’s when speaking to her.

Because this text is a play, the audience will understand characters through their dialogue and behaviour. There is no narration or extraneous material in the play, but it is important to read the stage directions which inform the actors what actions should be performed on stage. Pay close attention to the scenes set in the Wasteground. Keatley describes these figures of the children as representing the “core” of their adult characters.

When reading any work of fiction, pay careful attention to how characters interact with each other, as well as how they reveal their private thoughts. Consider whether you can see development over time: do the characters change, and how? My Mother Said I Never Should skips around through time, showing the audience key events in the shared lives of the women. How do the women change between scenes? How does the structure of the play reveal their characteristics and the important moments which shape their lives? Do any of their characteristics remain constant over time, or in the timeless space of the Wasteground?

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in My Mother Said I Never Should.

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  1. MARGARET: I'm very sorry Mummy.
    DORIS: Mother.
    What does Doris's response to her daughter tell the audience about her character?
    She also expects Margaret to refer to her dad as "Father". This formality is strikingly old-fashioned
  2. In Act One, Scene Four, Margaret announces to an empty room that she went out for a meal with an admirer despite being married. How does this relate to her actions later in the play?
    Margaret avoids answering difficult questions throughout the play and rarely admits to her troubles. Here it is significant that she is speaking to an empty room, rather than to her daughter
  3. Who accuses her mother of having "hang ups" about sex?
    The use of the word "hang ups" reflects Jackie's position as a teen in the 60s. Ironically, of course, Jackie later finds herself a struggling single mother. Margaret also has a similar conversation with her own mother, except there she is insisting she won't have children
  4. Which of the following does NOT describe Rosie?
    Rosie, who is unafraid to be herself, to speak her mind and to do what she thinks ought to be done, seems to have a chance to escape some of the difficulties the other women of her family have faced in their lives
  5. MARGARET: You've got such opportunities.
    JACKIE: Expectations.
    MARGARET: Yes!
    JACKIE: Yours.
    Which of the following best describes Margaret here?
    Margaret expects Jackie to fulfil her own ambitions. She tells Jackie that she and Rosie, too, must go further than Margaret and Doris, laying expectations on each generation to achieve more in life
  6. "I never did ask for what I wanted. Resentment is a terrible thing, Jackie. You don't want to be resenting somebody at the end of your life." Of whom is Doris thinking here?
    Doris resents never challenging Jack on anything, even his choice of colours for decorating their house
  7. In Act Three, Scene Two, Rosie returns from holiday and is described as wearing "sophisticated holiday clothes". Why is this significant?
    Jackie tries to recreate the relationship she has been denied with her daughter, taking her on holiday, buying her gifts and clothes. Rosie always sees her as the sophisticated, adventurous, successful and generous older sister, however
  8. In the same scene, Rosie describes Jackie's behaviour as restless. Which of the following lines gives this impression?
    Rosie perceives how Jackie seems to be searching for something she has lost (she does not realise that she herself was lost by Jackie)
  9. Faced with Jackie's return from holiday, Margaret grumbles that Rosie is overtired, that she won't have a chance to rest before school starts and that all her clothes need washing. What is the motivation for Margaret's grumbles?
    Margaret is jealous that Rosie wishes so much to leave her to live with Jackie. She is also grieving for the loss of her child, even though Rosie is firstly Jackie's child
  10. In the final scene, Doris tells her mother about Jack's proposal. What emotion does she most strongly convey in the scene?
    These emotions are at the very heart of Doris, but have been obscured by the hardships of life, societal expectations and the difficulties of her long marriage

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