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My Mother Said I Never Should - Themes
What are the themes in My Mother Said I Never Should?

My Mother Said I Never Should - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz is about themes in Charlotte Keatley's My Mother Said I Never Should. A theme, when speaking of literature, is an idea conveyed by a text. Even the simplest work of literature will contain several themes. These can range from the unmistakeable to those you might only notice after reading a work for the third time. The themes of a text usually interact with one another, as if in conversation, rather than operating in isolation. Authors develop themes through the use of the essential elements of fiction, including setting, character, plot and dialogue.

You will certainly have had the experience of noticing related ideas and concepts popping up in different places in a text you are reading.

These related ideas are, of course, the themes and to analyse them, you should begin thinking about how these ideas develop over the course of the text. A good place to start is by considering your own opinions: has the text prompted you to change your own thoughts on the topics? Or perhaps your pre-existing ideas have been confirmed? If an author has successfully encouraged you to engage with the themes of the text, you will find yourself thinking hard about the issues and maybe even changing your mind.

When you finish reading a text, try comparing your thoughts at the end with those you held as you began reading. Do you find that you can explain why your views might have changed or grown stronger? See whether you can identify the section of text where your personal views have been challenged (or confirmed). It is important to remember that you do not have to agree with other readers. Your response to a text will be personal, because you, like other readers, bring your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration while reading.

Most of the themes of My Mother Said I Never Should relate to the experience of women. Society’s expectations of women, women’s expectations of themselves, the relationship between mothers and daughters, are the basic themes of the text. Each theme is multi-layered, however, especially through the passage of time for each character and for society as a whole. The women’s experiences vary over time while retaining continuity. Doris can relate perfectly well to her great-granddaughter’s experiences in many ways, despite the societal shifts which take place over the twentieth century.

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

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1.
In what sense is "judgement" a theme of the play?
The women of the play are frequently critical, but only about men
Characters often pass moral judgement both on themselves and on others in the play
The play is similar to a trial in a courtroom
Judgement does not feature in the play
This is one of the reasons that Margaret and Jackie are both considered apologetic by Rosie. They are not, however, imagining the sense of being under judgement, since characters explicitly criticise one another throughout the play
2.
How does the ordinary feature in the play?
Through familial relationships
Through domestic settings
Through illness and death
All of the above
The play is entirely concerned with the most ordinary of relationships, settings, and experiences. Even birth and death are almost stripped bare, allowing them to be as ordinary as possible. The family's decision to raise Rosie as Jackie's sister is perhaps the least ordinary event in the play, but certainly happened often enough in the past
3.
Objects in the play are shown to be meaningful as triggers for ....
Arguments
Memory
Lies
Music
The few objects in the play function as holders of memories; objects such as photos, clothing, a cup and the piano prompt the sharing of memories
4.
Doris keeps her resentments inside; Rosie openly supports political protests. Which of the following is true of Margaret and Jackie?
They are well-adjusted and are able to quietly acknowledge their feelings about issues
They often take out their feelings on each other
Both make a political stand for their beliefs, like Rosie
Both bottle up their feelings like Doris
Protest and honesty about feelings are shown to be related; when characters suppress their feelings, they often are revealed in a low-level, but destructive, manner such as the bickering between mother and daughter (or between Ken and Margaret)
5.
"We need bits of her finger-nail and hair and stuff." To which theme does this line spoken in the Wasteground relate?
Judgement
Magic
The difficulties of balancing family and career
The political
The Wasteground is a semi-magical place. When Jackie tries to create a spell to kill the Mother, her magical practices resemble the types of activities in which children engage on the playground. The child Margaret, however, disappears after the spell is enacted as if the wish to be rid of the Mother really had been responsible for Margaret's death
6.
Which of the following does NOT relate to the themes of dishonesty and secrecy in the play?
Margaret hides her engagement to Ken
Doris simply ignores questions from the young Margaret when she does not wish to answer them
Rosie believes Margaret and Ken to be her parents
Margaret does not admit the true state of her health to anyone
The circumstances of Rosie's birth are the source of many, but not all, of the secrets in the play
7.
Which of the following is correct?
The relationship between women and men is explored through the women's perceptions and dialogue
The lives of the men, who never appear onstage, are entirely decided by the actions and decisions taken by the women
The men, although never appearing onstage, dictate all of the decisions which the women make
The relationship between women and men is unimportant to the play
Men are very much part of this play, despite never appearing onstage. The relationship between women and men is explored through the women's memories and conversations, as well as the structure of the play in which scenes jump between different times, encompassing proposals and deaths
8.
Inheritance is one of the themes of the play. This theme is apparent in all but which one of the following?
Jack leaves his house and possessions to Jackie
Margaret's doll, Suky, is passed down through the generations
Rosie decides to enter the same career her great-grandmother followed
Each of the women faces the same issues both in life and in their relationships with their mothers and/or daughters
Objects, troubles and character traits are passed down or reappear in each generation
9.
Whom does Rosie describe as always sounding apologetic on the phone?
Doris
Margaret
Jackie
Jack
Rosie is often able to articulate the issues facing the women in her family. In Rosie's eyes, both Margaret and Jackie feel a perpetual sense of shame, a sense of responsibility for everything that goes wrong and a need to apologise
10.
The play presents career advancement as a trade-off with which of the following?
Living a moral life
Having friends
Being a good wife and mother
Economic security
While attitudes towards work change (Doris, for example, is expected to give up her work), none of the women successfully manages both home life and work. Margaret appears to do so, raising two daughters and having a job during the second half of her life, but blames the pressure for her husband leaving her
Author:  Sheri Smith

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