This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at dialogue in George Eliot's Silas Marner. The term “dialogue” is used for any direct speech in a literary text, although technically it means a conversation between at least two people. Dialogue is an important element in characterisation. The reader learns about characters not only from the content of their speech, but also through their style of speaking. Many of the characters in Silas Marner are strongly characterised through their dialogue, with several speaking in dialect.
It is important to note specific details such as language choice, use of dialect and pacing, which can be indicated through punctuation to represent interruptions and pauses in a character’s speech. When reading a work of fiction spend some time to consider the following: How is the speech of each character differentiated from others?
In what way does vocabulary vary between characters? Does a character’s dialogue change over time, or in different situations? Does it make any difference which characters are speaking together?
Dialogue tells you much more than about individual characteristics. Plot often depends on dialogue, especially where speech prompts an event; speech also often conveys information which you might not otherwise know, for example those events which happened before the story begins, or how characters expect to see future events unfold. In Silas Marner this is information which the narrator usually tells the reader directly, so it is worth noting what dialogue is reserved for instead.
One practical method of preparing for a literature exam is to memorise dialogue. Create a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, paying special attention to those that convey their characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text.
The quiz below focusses on knowing who is speaking each of these lines. Consider the significance of these lines before answering the questions. What do they tell the reader about the character who speaks them? Would it be possible to imagine another character speaking the same lines? If not, why not? Also think whether the dialogue also gives us information about the person being addressed, or whether it foreshadows or explains later events.