My Mother Said I Never Should - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz sees how good you are at understanding the text in My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley. Understanding a text is key if you are going to analyse and write about it. This might seem straightforward, but it can actually be trickier than people often think. If an author only had a simple message to share, then it would not take so many thousands of words to do so! Reading a text from another century, or written in dialect, can take extra effort, as can reading a text such as a play, which is meant to be staged. My Mother Said I Never Should was written near the end of the twentieth century, and deals for the most part with familiar ideas in everyday language.

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Nevertheless, it requires careful attention to the constant subtext present in the dialogue in order to better understand the play.

Authors use a variety of methods to convey meaning. Sometimes they state what they mean directly, but it is more usual to communicate through the various aspects of fiction: character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue, for example. Focussing on each of these elements separately will help you better understanding the text. Find time to re-read the text, too; by only reading a book once you are more likely to miss important details. If for any reason you find that you need to re-read sections of text, don’t worry! Realising that there are aspects that you haven’t fully understood just shows how much attention you have been paying to the complexities of the text.

Making a timeline of events is a very practical method of revision. Events in plays are commonly presented chronologically, but in My Mother Said I Never Should, time shifts back and forth to significant scenes. This structure requires some extra effort to remember. You will also need to think about the significance of the dialogue in the scenes set in the Wasteground, which both follows its own logic and also highlights the events in the scenes which follow.

Spend some time thinking about the relationship between characters’ actions and motivations. Are there any clues which explain the interactions of different characters? Can words be taken at face value? Why or why not? As you consider these elements of the text, remember to ask yourself how you could justify your views through evidence.

The beginnings and ends of texts are good places to focus your analysis. Think about possible reasons why the text begins as it does. What do you learn at the very beginning of the play about the setting and the characters? Are future events foreshadowed? You can also apply this type of analysis to the beginnings and ends of acts and scenes. Spending some time on careful and detailed analysis of this sort will greatly improve your understanding of the text.

Read the questions below on My Mother Said I Never Should and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. Why must Doris's house be cleared out in Act Two?
    Jackie, who feels guilty about being left her grandmother's house, has bought Doris a new house and intends to invest the money raised from the sale of the house in order to benefit everyone in the family
  2. How are the characters in the play related?
    Doris is the mother of Margaret, who is the mother of Jackie, who is the mother of Rosie
  3. How does Rosie discover the truth about her birth?
    In the immediate aftermath of Margaret's death from cancer Rosie finds out that Jackie is her mother, rather than her older sister
  4. Where does Rosie live at the end of the play?
    Doris and Rosie have clearly forged a strong relationship by the end of the play, bringing the generations of mothers and daughters together
  5. Why did Jack look down on Doris's mother?
    Jackie is distressed to discover her grandfather's opinions because of her own experience of giving birth without being married. Her grandfather had always treated her as a favourite
  6. What does Doris keep trying to find out during Margaret's last visit to see her?
    Doris knows something must be wrong for Margaret to travel all the way to Oldham by train on a weekday. Margaret is reluctant to tell her what is on her mind, becoming more cross with the questioning. She finally admits that her husband has left her, although she does not mention her illness
  7. How are the actors dressed when appearing in scenes set in the Wasteground?
    The Wasteground scenes bring the four characters together as children, an impossibility in the other scenes which take place in time. In the Wasteground, 'Mother' becomes an abstract figure, rather than a person with character traits and emotions such as rebelliousness, nervousness, curiosity, and anger
  8. Which of the following is correct?
    Men are always elsewhere: waiting in the car, arriving to collect a character, waiting to speak to someone's mother, dealing with bureaucracy after death, leaving troublesome wills
  9. Not having a child to bring up allows Jackie to do which of the following?
    Jackie's career is very important to Margaret, who urges her to complete her education. The play presents family and career as a continuous trade-off for women
  10. Why does Margaret sleep below the piano as a young girl?
    Margaret worries that the piano itself will collapse on her if her home is bombed

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