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My Mother Said I Never Should - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Charlotte Keatley's My Mother Said I Never Should. Setting refers to the time and the location in which the events of a fictional text take place. Most texts, of course, have more than one setting: as in life, fictional events are likely to occur in different places and times. Buildings and spaces provide individual settings within the wider setting and these very often contrast with one another.

In addition to time and place, events provide a crucial element in a text’s setting, even if these events only take place in the background. Social and political issues play an important role.

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In a play, the reader glimpses this wider fictional world, known as context, through the dialogue of the characters (it is important not to confuse this fictional context, which is integral to the setting of a text, with the author’s real-life context). Another key element of setting, atmosphere, usually changes many times over the course of a text.

In My Mother Said I Never Should, scenes jump in time and space, so that a character who is an adult in one scene might suddenly be a child in another. A scene in a back garden might be followed by one in the timeless Wasteground or one set several hundred miles to the north. Growing up in the play is associated with the desire to relocate. At one point Margaret reminds Doris that she has no intention of becoming a “Manchester dentist’s wife”. Although the distances involved as each character moves away from home are not great, they disrupt the relationships between the characters and are often the occasion for worry. Historical context also becomes significant as we see how each decade affects the individual characters.

Answer the questions below on setting in My Mother Said I Never Should.

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  1. Which of the following events does NOT take place in the month of December?
    December in the play is associated with upheaval
  2. What provides shelter during the WWII air raids which take place in the second scene?
    Margaret shelters under the piano with her doll; later Jackie plays at hiding under the piano to get a feel for her mother's experience
  3. When is My Mother Said I Never Should set?
    The play spans the lives of four women from 1940, in Act One, Scene Two, to 1987, in Act Three, Scene Seven (the final scene returns to 1923)
  4. What event forces Doris to move to Oldham?
    Doris is left to the whims of her husband's will when he leaves the house to their granddaughter. The event demonstrates the helplessness of a woman who had been successful in her career before agreeing to marry
  5. Besides the scenes set in the Wasteground, when do all of the characters appear together?
    Act Two, at the centre of the play, sees all characters together as the younger generations help to clear out Doris's house after Jack's death. This is the only part of the play in which the audience sees how the characters interact when they are all together and the mother-daughter relationships are intact
  6. Which of the following is correct?
    Act Three is the exception to the movement between different times. In Act Three, scenes proceed chronologically, with the exception of the Wasteground scene and the final scene to the day of Doris's engagement to Jack
  7. In what time are the scenes in the Wasteground set?
    The women are all girls together in the Wasteground, the setting for the first scene
  8. One of the themes of the play is women's roles at work and how these relate to their familial roles. Whose workplace is the setting for one scene?
    Most of the settings are domestic, located in gardens or houses; Margaret's office is the only workplace to be portrayed on stage
  9. Where is the play set?
    The scenes take place in Manchester and its environs, including Cheadle Hulme and Oldham, and in London
  10. What is significant about the Wasteground?
    The women stand out more clearly as individuals when they do not play the role of mother or of daughter

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