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Silence is a key theme in DNA.

DNA - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz asks questions about themes in Dennis Kelly's DNA. Theme, in literature, is an idea conveyed by a text. All works of literature contain multiple themes. These can range from the unmissable to the subtlest of ideas. An interplay between themes occurs as each theme develops alongside the others. Authors use the essential elements of fiction, including setting, character, plot and dialogue, in order to develop theme.

Have you ever noticed the way that related ideas and concepts appear repeatedly in a text you’ve read? These repeated ideas are the text’s themes. Think about the ways in which the author has introduced and developed each theme over the course of the text.

One especially good place to start this analysis is by examining your own views, especially if you have been prompted to reconsider any of your own opinions on the ideas with which the text is concerned. Whenever a text makes you think hard about an issue or maybe even persuades you to change your mind, then the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of the text’s themes. In class discussions, you might discover that you strongly disagree with other readers, your classmates, or your teacher. This is natural: there is never a single acceptable view to hold about a text and it would be rather odd to share identical views with everyone else! Your response will be deeply personal because you bring your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration of the text.

It is always worth spending a bit of time comparing the thoughts and views you hold after finishing a book with those you held before you began to read. Can you identify any views which have been changed, challenged or strengthened? Try to explain why/why not, even if only to yourself. One useful exercise is to try to pinpoint the specific place in the text which challenged or confirmed your personal views.

Try this quiz to see how much you know about the themes of DNA.

When Mark describes how Adam was (supposedly) killed, he begins by discussing the events as if the group were joking or playing, with Adam playing along. Yet the events included stubbing out cigarettes on Adam's skin and forcing him to run across the motorway. To which of the following themes does Mark's recount contribute?
Youthful hopes and dreams
The violence of groups
Adult awareness of the lives of teenagers
Natural innocence
Mark describes the events as if they arise through undirected group activity, as if no one meant to harm Adam really, but group dynamics took over as they experimented with how far they could push him while he continued playing along
Which of the characters is presented as the leader of the group in Act One?
John Tate
John Tate takes responsibility for protecting the group and ensuring that everyone is united. By the end of the scene in "a wood", however, he has asked Phil for a plan to cover up their "murder" of Adam, marking the moment where Phil assumes leadership of the group
The presence of DNA evidence on Adam's jumper from a man fitting the invented description given by Brian contributes to which of the following themes in the play?
Group vs. individual
Truth and falsehood
DNA evidence is often understood to be incontrovertible. Here Cathy's ingenuity has ensured that the false DNA evidence matches the invented description of a suspect
Silence is one of the key themes of DNA. Which of the following is NOT one of the ways this theme can be seen in the play?
The group is silent when an innocent man is accused of Adam's murder, not speaking up to prevent him going to prison
Brian is silent and never protests his role in the cover-up
No one in the group talks about having found Adam alive after the murder investigation has already begun
Phil is non-responsive for the most part when people talk to him, creating a strong and frightening presence
Brian protests repeatedly, but is threatened with violence. Being trapped between the web of lies and the group's known inclination to violence leads Brian to develop mental illness by the end of the play
Dennis Kelly has said that the characters in DNA "do know right from wrong". Which one of the following demonstrates their awareness or morality?
Most of the group are obviously horrified that an innocent man is very likely to go to prison for the murder
John Tate abandons the group and spends his time trying to convert people to Christianity
The members of the group are traumatised by their own roles in what they believe to be the murder of Adam
All of the above
Once the group have made a collective decision to cover up the apparent death of Adam, each development leads to a further choice between right and wrong. The emotional response of each character shows that they know they are choosing wrong, but choose it nevertheless
Which of the following individuals does NOT leave the group?
John Tate
The play ends with the group reconfigured. Leah has gone to another school, John Tate has become an evangelical Christian, Brian has lost his mind and Phil utterly refuses to engage with the others
How are adults present in the play?
The members of the group frequently discuss their parents' reactions to events
The head of the school is the only adult character in the play with a speaking part
Adults are off-stage, present primarily in investigating the murder, following the false trail of evidence laid by the members of the group
Adults appear on stage but have no speaking parts
Adults are off-stage in DNA. In this world, adults have the power to arrest, investigate and imprison, but are also easily manipulated by the group and are completely in the dark about the true events
Which of the following characters does not appear to show any signs of trauma by the end of the play?
Cathy has taken over John Tate's former role, terrorising fellow pupils at school; Richard also shows no apparent signs of trauma, unlike Danny, who experiences dental patients' mouths as black caverns, and Brian, who is on increasing stronger medication. Phil remains in the field, "staring at nothing" on his own
No one prevents Cathy and Phil from forcing Brian to kill Adam. Which of the following lines demonstrates the group's awareness of their plans?
PHIL: If you go now and you say nothing to no-one about this, you won't be in trouble.
JAN thinks. Nods to MARK. They go.
LOU: What about....
What about Cathy?
PHIL goes to her. Places a hand on her shoulder, smiles, warm, reassuring.
PHIL: Everything is going to be fine.
Beat. She goes off after JAN and MARK.
LEAH: No, Cathy, don't, stop, Cathy....?
But she goes, taking BRIAN with her. LEAH turns to PHIL.
All of the above
Each member of the group present when Adam returns is complicit in the actual murder, with the possible exception of Brian, who has already begun to lose his mind. Leah objects, but does nothing to stop Cathy and Phil
Which of the following lines demonstrates the theme of belonging?
MARK: You're thinking what is the nutter [...] what is this nutter gonna do next
MARK: oh, he was terrified
MARK: I mean we were just having a laugh...
MARK: You know Adam, you know what he's like [...], he was, sort of hanging around
JAN: Trying to be part of...
"Belonging" in this play is dark, involving complicity in the group's dynamics. Here, the group's escalating cruelty to Adam is provoked by his desire to belong
Author:  Sheri Smith

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