Three-dimensional DNA on blue background
Read the extract first before answering the questions about DNA.

DNA - Extract 1

This is the first of two GCSE English Literature extract questions for DNA by Dennis Kelly. It takes place near the end of Act Two, in the scene set in “A Woods”. Phil, Leah, Lou and Danny begin the scene by discussing the latest turn of events and are soon joined by Richard and Cathy and later Jan and Mark. This scene marks the point in the play where the carefully constructed plan to explain Adam’s disappearance, and deflect the blame from those who are truly responsible, goes very badly awry, implicating an innocent man.

How to answer an extract question in an exam

The most important thing you can do when preparing to answer an extract question is to read the passage through more than once.

The first reading will enable you to understand the passage, especially in terms of the question you will answer. Consider specifically how the passage relates to the question. During the second reading, you can begin to make annotations, underlining those details you plan to discuss, or use as evidence, in your writing. It is a very good habit to read extract passages more than once, especially when you devote each reading to a specific aim. After your initial preparation, plan in greater detail how you can use the passage to answer the question.

Try to spare a moment or two to consider the reason this particular extract might have been chosen. What is its significance to the overall text? How would you describe its importance? Which of the text’s themes does it touch upon or develop? Can you describe how the experiences of each of the characters differ? How does the extract relate to the events which follow; for example, can you point to any evidence of foreshadowing, or perhaps a turning point? Think about the point where the extract ends: is the final line significant? How does the extract’s ending relate to the events or themes of the text?

Be sure to consider the exact requirements of the question you are expected to answer. What are the specifics you have been asked to address? An extract question might concern any aspect of the writing, including mood and atmosphere, character, dialogue, theme, or, sometimes, your own personal response. Begin by explaining the passage’s immediate context: describe what has happened before the events in the extract, showing how this is relevant to the passage. Always discuss the passage itself in detail, rather than writing in a general way about the text and its themes. Plan out your answer before you begin, grouping related ideas together. A plan is never a waste of time! Make sure you pace yourself so that you are able to cover the entire passage.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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RICHARD: Phil, have you heard?

LEAH: We heard.

CATHY: They wanted to interview me.

RICHARD: You’ve heard? You know?

CATHY: Didn’t have time, but I’m gonna go back

RICHARD: So you know they’ve caught him?

CATHY: get on the telly

LEAH: How can they have caught someone who doesn’t exist?

RICHARD: I don’t know, Leah.

LEAH: Because that’s impossible.

RICHARD: Why don’t you tell them that? Why don’t you pop down the station and say “excuse me, but that fat postman with the bad teeth doesn’t actually exist, so why don’t you let him go”?

LEAH: sarcasm, that’s the lowest

CATHY: they might even give me money for it, do you think I should ask for money?

LOU: He’s gonna go to prison.

LEAH: Lou, they are not going to send him to prison because he answers a description they need more than that, they need fibres, they need samples, they need evidence.

RICHARD: DNA evidence.

LEAH: Exactly, they need DNA —

RICHARD: No, they’ve got DNA evidence.


LEAH: What?

RICHARD: He answers the description, but they’ve got DNA evidence linking him to the crime.

LEAH: DN…What are you talking about?

RICHARD: We spoke to a reporter. They matched up the DNA evidence they found on the jumper to a police database and they came up with this man, this man who answers the description perfectly.

LEAH: That’s impossible.

RICHARD: Well it’s what happened.

LEAH: No, because, we made that description up and they got DNA from a random —

Beat. She turns to CATHY.


Pause. They all stare at CATHY.

CATHY: You told us to get DNA evidence. We got DNA evidence. We did what you said.

LEAH: Right.


Hang on.

Where did you get the DNA evidence?

CATHY: From a man, like you said.


A man down the sorting office.

They stare at her.

LEAH: What?

CATHY: Well, we thought, you know, I mean, you’d given a description so we thought, well, I thought, you know, show initiative, we’ll look for a fat balding postman with bad teeth.

They stare at her.

There were quite a few.

DANNY: Oh my God.

CATHY: What?

LOU: Oh my God.

CATHY: We showed…initiative, we —

LEAH: And who asked you to do that?

CATHY: Richard, we showed initiative.

RICHARD: That is the most stupid —

DANNY: Oh, Jesus.


LEAH: Why? Because there is now a man in prison who is linked to a non-existent crime, answering a description that Brian gave.

LOU: Oh, Jesus Christ.

CATHY: But isn’t that…

LEAH: No, Cathy, it is not what we wanted.

Dennis Kelly, DNA (Oberon Books, 2012)
Whose silence during this scene is especially noticeable?
John Tate's
Phil will eventually step in in order to force Brian to lie and identify the man as guilty, thus protecting the group. Brian's silence is also noticeable here
Who shows the most awareness of the problem with having collected DNA from a person who matches the invented description?
Lou, Leah and Danny
Richard, Cathy and Brian
Cathy, Richard and Leah
Danny, Phil and Richard
It is in the course of reassuring Lou, who is worried an innocent person will go to prison, that Leah realises what has happened
Which of the following is correct?
Cathy is excited to tell the group the important information about the arrest she heard from the reporters
Richard has been given information by the reporters with whom he's spoken
Richard is excited that he is going to be on the news
Cathy has been interviewed for the news
Richard's tone suggests that he is excited to bring the news back to the rest of the group
At the end of this extract, Leah finishes Cathy's sentence for her. What does the interrupted sentence suggest about Cathy?
She's a terrible person who has no care for other people
She knew exactly what would happen when she used her "initiative"
She hoped to spoil the group's plan
She misunderstood the purpose of the task she'd been given
Cathy seems to genuinely think that she was carrying out the group's plan perfectly
What immediately follows this passage?
Leah intervenes to save the innocent man
Cathy goes to the police station to give a television interview
The group forces Brian to go to the police station to identify the suspect
Brian escapes from the control of the group
Brian knows he would cry because of his guilt about lying, but that the crying would paradoxically make his testimony more believable
What is the immediate context for this passage?
The group has just discovered that a man has been arrested over Adam's disappearance
Cathy and Richard have just planted the evidence in the woods
The group has just discovered that Adam is still alive
Phil has just instructed the group on the plan to pin the blame on an imaginary culprit
The group are worriedly discussing the new development when Cathy and Richard return straight from the police station
Which of the following lines expresses the impossibility of the situation the group has now found itself in?
"Lou, they are not going to send him to prison because he answers a description they need more than that, they need fibres, they need samples, they need evidence"
"They matched up the DNA evidence they found on the jumper to a police database and they came up with this man, this man who answers the description perfectly"
"Why don’t you tell them that? Why don’t you pop down the station and say 'excuse me, but that fat postman with the bad teeth doesn’t actually exist, so why don’t you let him go'?"
"Sarcasm, that’s the lowest"
Richard points out that no one will listen to anyone from the group and how ridiculous their claims would sound
Why is it a problem that Cathy and the others collected DNA from a postman, rather than a random person?
It is not very plausible that a postman would be guilty of murder
The postman will distract from the real murderer
All of the postmen look similar, so the police will have a hard time deciding who the murderer is
They have falsely implicated an innocent person
By choosing a man who matches the fake description of the imaginary perpetrator of a made-up crime, they have created persuasive evidence that this innocent man is guilty of murder
Under pressure, Cathy repeats herself, saying "we did what you said" and "like you said". Which of her lines contradicts these statements?
"You told us to get DNA evidence. We got DNA evidence"
"We showed...initiative"
"There were quite a few"
"They wanted to interview me"
Leah responds by asking her, "And who asked you to do that?"
What is Cathy's main concern at the beginning of this passage?
She is worried that she has let down the rest of the group
She is boasting about how well she carried out the plan
She is hoping to be interviewed by a television news reporter
She is worried about an innocent man going to prison
The other speakers do not capture Cathy's attention for a while as she wonders whether she might be paid for appearing on the news
Author:  Sheri Smith

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