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My Mother Said I Never Should - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the first of two extract questions for My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley. It takes place during Act Two, when the four characters come together to clear Doris’s house in Cheadle Hulme. Sharp emotions of grief and regret combine with long-established patterns of relationship to create a scene in which strong feelings simmer beneath every word spoken.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Whenever you begin preparing to write an answer to an extract question, first be sure that you read the passage through more than once. This is a good habit to develop because re-reading gives you an opportunity to notice other details and aspects of the passage you might miss otherwise.

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The first reading should focus on general understanding; spend some time considering how the details of the passage relate to the question you will be answering. The second reading gives you a chance to make detailed notes and annotations. After this initial preparation you can begin to plan exactly how you will use the passage to answer the question.

Think about the reasons behind the choice of extract. Can you describe its importance to the text as a whole? What is its role? Which themes are evident in the passage? Consider each of the characters and how their experiences might differ. What is the relationship between the passage and the events which come afterwards? Can you see evidence of foreshadowing? How might you relate the passage to earlier events? Is there a turning point? Have a think about the extract’s ending: is the final line significant? How does the extract’s end relate to the events or themes of the text?

Spend a moment to consider the exact wording of the question you have chosen to answer. What have you been asked to address? Extract questions come in many guises and you might be expected to focus on mood and atmosphere, character, dialogue, theme, or your own personal response. Start with explaining the passage’s immediate context: mention the events which precede the extract, explaining their relevance. Ensure that you refer to the passage in detail, rather than being too general in your discussion. How does the passage relate to the themes of the text? Try grouping related ideas together to give your answer some structure. Make sure that you plan carefully, so that you have enough time to discuss the entire passage.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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ROSIE (enters with a flashlight, swings it round. Pause): Grandad? You in here? (Silence, listens.) Well if you are listening, I want to tell you that it was pretty stupid, what you did — I mean, leaving the house and stuff to Jackie. Mum and Gran were mega hurt, you know that? (Pause.) Grandad . . . ? I’d like to know, did you do it because you like Jackie best . . . or because you’re jealous? (Silence. Listens. A rustle. Rosie jumps, swings her flashlight round.) Mice. (Pause.) I’m not scared of you, Grandad, it’s the others who are. You didn’t get me. (Switches off the flashlight and goes out to garden through French windows, shutting them behind her.

Enter Jackie carrying boxes and binliners. She puts these down and exits.

Margaret enters with a bag and rubber gloves, guiding Doris.

DORIS: Two months ago Saturday Jack died, and the house hasn’t been aired since.

MARGARET: Well we can soon put that right, Mother.

DORIS: I doubt it.

Lights on suddenly and bright. Doris startled.

JACKIE (re-enters): I turned the power on, and the water.

DORIS: Oh, I don’t think that’ll be necessary.

MARGARET: Mother we have to see to clear up.

JACKIE: You don’t have to worry about bills now, Granny, I’ve worked it all out. (To Margaret.) I’ve backed the van up the drive so we can load things straight in.

DORIS: My lily of the valley!

JACKIE: I couldn’t see. There’s snow over everything.

DORIS: It was terrible on the motorway driving up.

JACKIE: Have you had a good time in London?

DORIS: . . . Terrible . . . (Still referring to the journey.)

MARGARET: Yes well we’re here now, Mother. Have some tea, I’ve brought a flask. (Gets out the thermos and pours a cup).

DORIS: I’m quite all right. You have some.

MARGARET: I want to get on.

JACKIE: Sit down while the house warms up.

DORIS: I don’t want to be a nuisance to anyone.

MARGARET (wavers, cup in hand): Jackie?

JACKIE: Got sugar in it?

MARGARET: Yes.

JACKIE: You know I don’t.

MARGARET: You’ve got no sense of compromise, have you?

ROSIE knocks on the French windows with a white rose.

MARGARET: Look at Rosie.

DORIS: She’ll catch her death.

MARGARET: She never does. (Lets Rosie in.)

ROSIE: Look what I found!

DORIS: Is it wax?

MARGARET: A Christmas rose.

DORIS: It’s dead.

JACKIE: It’s not, it’s frozen.

ROSIE: That’s dead.

JACKIE: We could unfreeze it.

ROSIE: Even you can’t organise roses to come alive.

DORIS (going to French windows): They should all have been pruned by now . . . all blown down by the storms.

ROSIE: C’mon, we can’t prune them now.

DORIS: I don’t want whoever buys this house to think Jack and I didn’t know about roses.

JACKIE: We can pay to have the garden done, before we sell.

DORIS (stiff): All that money, and Jack would never spend a penny of it.

ROSIE: Mum, can Jackie and I make a snowman?

MARGARET: Rosie we’ve only got today and tomorrow to get this house sorted out. I don’t suppose Jackie wants us in her flat any longer than that.

JACKIE: Mummy, you can stay as long as you like, you know that!

MARGARET: You said you’ve even been using your bedroom to store paintings.

JACKIE: That was before the exhibition. Anyway Rosie’s room is always ready.

Charlotte Keatley, My Mother Said I Never Should (Bloomsbury, 2014)
  1. At what point in the play does this passage take place?
    The house clearing occupies all of Act Two and is the only scene in which all four women are together in real time
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    The audience learns how life has developed for each character and how the women plan to tell Rosie the truth about her birth; the audience also sees Doris reassess her life and marriage
  3. What does Doris mean when she says to her daughter, "I doubt it"?
    Doris is deliberately choosing to understand Margaret to be saying that she can make Jack's death right when she knows Margaret is breezily referring to airing out the house. She might be rebuking her daughter for being too cheerful
  4. Rosie jokes that even Jackie cannot bring a dead rose back to life. This deeply symbolic moment applies also to which of the following?
    This conversation foreshadows Margaret's later warning to Jackie that she will never be able to regain the lost time with her daughter, even after telling her the truth about their relationship
  5. Margaret offers Jackie a cup of tea which is refused. What does this exchange between mother and daughter tell the audience?
    Rather than a simpler conversation where Margaret offers tea and Jackie responds with a polite "No thanks", the two women have a fraught exchange hinting back at years of disagreements where minor issues represent bigger problems
  6. When Doris says that she doesn't believe it necessary to have the electricity and water turned on, how does Margaret understand her?
    Having grown up in austerity and with her mother's strict treatment, Margaret reverts to childhood and complains at the restriction. Jackie, having grown up in different circumstances and with a more lenient Doris as grandmother, knows that the bills are causing the worry
  7. Which one of the following does NOT describe the atmosphere of this scene?
    The only figure who escapes from the underlying tension is Rosie, but even her escape is only partial, as the audience can see from the way she addresses her grandfather as a ghost at the beginning of the scene
  8. Which of the following lines reminds the audience that Rosie views Jackie as her sister?
    Rosie speaks naturally as if she and Jackie are both children together and must ask their mum's permission to play
  9. Doris's concern about the roses stems from which of the following?
    Doris is also worried about Jackie having run over the lily of the valley, as she was with Ken in another scene. The audience might have the impression that Doris has spent quite a bit of time worrying about this particular plant
  10. What does the final line tell us about Jackie?
    Rosie loves Jackie as her fun, older sister and often begs to stay with her

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