This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge on on dialogue in Charlotte Keatley's My Mother Said I Never Should. "Dialogue" in literature refers to any direct speech, although the term technically means a conversation between at least two people. A significant aspect of characterisation, dialogue gives the reader important information about the characters. By devoting some attention to the style and content of each character’s speech, you will be able to form mental images of the characters. Dialogue is also important because it instigates action, provoking change and plot development. A play, of course, is almost entirely created from dialogue.
One approach to thinking about the dialogue in a work of fiction is by comparing and contrasting one character’s speech with another’s.
How can you distinguish between two characters? Can you identify differing vocabularies or registers? Do characters change their style of speech over time, or vary it by situation? Can you identify any patterns in how characters vary their speech, perhaps by hierarchies of relationship according to social standing or familial position?
My Mother Said I Never Should appears on the surface to be about the most mundane of events. The characters gather for birthdays, for brief visits, stop by after a holiday, fold laundry and sort household objects. Yet the dialogue is rarely simple: each apparently innocent statement or question is revealed to have a subtext only understood by those conversing. This technique requires close attention, especially if you are reading the play rather than watching it.
One highly practical method of preparing for a literature exam is by memorising some dialogue. Choose a few key lines for each character, always taking care to identify which theme or themes the lines touch upon. This practice will aid your memory and help you to decide which quotations might be useful in an exam essay.
The quiz below asks you to remember which character speaks the words. Think for a moment about the significance of the quoted dialogue before answering. How might you decide if the language is specific to a particular character? Is it possible for two different characters to have spoken the same words? Why, or why not? What does this tell you?