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Analyse the Role of Key Characters and Their Development in 'A Taste of Honey.'

In this worksheet, students will practise analysing the characters and their development in Shelagh Delaney's 'A Taste of Honey.'

'Analyse the Role of Key Characters and Their Development in 'A Taste of Honey.'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Eduqas

Curriculum topic:   Modern Texts: Drama, Post-1914 Prose / Drama

Curriculum subtopic:   A Taste of Honey

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

"Jo (Switches on light): "Come on, the truth.""

 

What is the significance of the 'light' in the stage directions here?

 

The word 'light' might suggest shedding light on something and revealing the truth.

 

Here we are looking at the connotations of a word, what words suggest to us, and analysing their effect.

 

When you are exploring a character in the exam, you will need to show that you can use quotations to support your points and analyse the quotations to explore what they show about the character. 


In the following activity, you will be able to practise analysing Delaney's characterisation in more depth, exploring the techniques she uses and how these reveal something about the characters in 'A Taste of Honey.'

 

You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples.  These quotations are for reference only.

Does Helen show any real affection for Jo?

 

Which sentence/s best analyse Helen's feelings for Jo.

Delaney presents Helen as a mother who never shows any affection to Jo

Delaney presents Helen as a mother who has not always shown affection to her daughter, but who does sometimes have moments where she demonstrates that she cares

Delaney shows that, although Helen struggles to show affection to Jo, in some ways she is actually dependent on her

Which line at the end of Act one, Scene two shows that Jo has contradictory feelings about her mother?

 

On the one hand Delaney shows that Jo wants independence from Helen, but at the same time reveals that Jo still craves a motherly figure in her life.

Delaney presents Helen as a mother who never shows any affection to Jo

Delaney presents Helen as a mother who has not always shown affection to her daughter, but who does sometimes have moments where she demonstrates that she cares

Delaney shows that, although Helen struggles to show affection to Jo, in some ways she is actually dependent on her

Delaney shows Helen using a dark humour that reveals a fatalistic attitude and a resignation to her fate.

 

However, Delaney shows some contradictory aspects to this attitude in the advice Helen gives Jo, when she suggests that she believes that people can decide what they become.

 

Match the quotations below to what Delaney is showing us about Helen's attitude to life.

 

 

Column A

Column B

"We're all at the steering wheel of our own destin...
Delaney's metaphor suggests that Helen believes th...
"Careering along like drunken drivers"
In some of Helen's dialogue, Delaney reveals almos...
"We all have funny ideas at that age, don't we - m...
The simile Delaney uses evokes images of someone o...
"I certainly supervised my own downfall"
Some of Helen's dialogue has a depressing tone, wh...

While Jo is keen to achieve independence from her mother, Delaney reveals other attributes in the character of Jo.

 

In the following quotation, what emotion is revealed most? 

 

"Jo: I'll probably never see you again. I know it.

 

Boy: What makes you say that?

 

Jo: I just know it. That's all. But I don't care. Stay with me now, it's enough, it's all I want, and if you do come back I'll still be here."

Detachment

Confidence

Insecurity

Delaney uses the symbolism of darkness in her play.

 

What does darkness suggest about Jo's character in the following quotation?

 

"I'm not frightened of the darkness outside. It's the darkness inside houses I don't like."

 

Complete the passage below to analyse this symbolism.

Detachment

Confidence

Insecurity

Delaney shows how, despite struggling to build relationships, Jo feels safe and secure around Geof.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment that explains what Delaney shows us about Jo and Geof's relationship.

Column A

Column B

"You see, it's not marrying love between us, thank...
Delaney reveals how Geof has helped Jo feel some h...
"I always want to have you with me because I know ...
Delaney shows that Jo feels safe around Geof becau...
"You've reformed me, some of the time at any rate"
Delaney shows that Jo feels secure around Geof bec...
"Someone's got to look after you. You can't look a...
Delaney shows that, while Jo has sought independen...

The relationship between Helen and Peter is used by Delaney to show more about the relationship between Helen and Jo.

 

Using the words below, complete the analytical passage.

 

- Defending

- Slapstick

- Attachment 

- Comical

- Attacking

Column A

Column B

"You see, it's not marrying love between us, thank...
Delaney reveals how Geof has helped Jo feel some h...
"I always want to have you with me because I know ...
Delaney shows that Jo feels safe around Geof becau...
"You've reformed me, some of the time at any rate"
Delaney shows that Jo feels secure around Geof bec...
"Someone's got to look after you. You can't look a...
Delaney shows that, while Jo has sought independen...

The structure of Act one, Scene two is interesting. Delaney has used a four part structure, which alternates between scenes with Jo and the Boy and scenes with Helen and Jo.

 

Why do you think Delaney chose to use this structure?

So that the audience are kept on their toes with a pacey action packed scene

So that the audience can make a direct comparison of the two relationships

Is Jo a hopeful character in the play?

 

Match the quotations below to what Delaney is showing us about Jo's character.

Column A

Column B

"I'm not planning big plans for this baby or dream...
Delaney presents Jo as sceptical and cautious abou...
"I can do anything when I set my mind to it"
Delaney shows Jo as determined to show her mother ...
"Do you know, for the first time in my life I feel...
Delaney shows that Jo feels most hopeful when arou...
"I hope they bloom. Always before when I've tried ...
The symbolism of Jo's bulbs is used by Delaney to ...
"They're dead. It makes you think, doesn't it"
Delaney's symbolism of Jo's bulbs failing to grow ...

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular character in the play.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

 

For the highest marks you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: Explore how Jo is presented in 'A Taste of Honey'.

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

  • Question 1

Does Helen show any real affection for Jo?

 

Which sentence/s best analyse Helen's feelings for Jo.

CORRECT ANSWER
Delaney presents Helen as a mother who has not always shown affection to her daughter, but who does sometimes have moments where she demonstrates that she cares
Delaney shows that, although Helen struggles to show affection to Jo, in some ways she is actually dependent on her
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! Certainly Jo feels that Helen has "never been affectionate" with her but, if we analyse Helen's character more closely, Delaney does present some moments of love and care. When she returns to Jo near the end, Helen says "I've come to look after you", and her questions show genuine concern for Jo in her pregnancy. However, we might question whether this comes from genuine love for Jo or whether Helen has returned at this time because she needs Jo. After all, Delaney reveals that Helen has been cheated on, and then Helen makes sure she gets rid of Geof. We might argue that Helen depends on Jo to be there when her other relationships break down.
  • Question 2

Which line at the end of Act one, Scene two shows that Jo has contradictory feelings about her mother?

 

On the one hand Delaney shows that Jo wants independence from Helen, but at the same time reveals that Jo still craves a motherly figure in her life.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find the correct one? Delaney's use of a contradictory statement really sums up Jo's conflicting feelings about her mother. While we see that Jo resents her mother for the neglect and rejection she has experienced throughout her childhood, we do get the sense that she still cares for Helen despite this. Indeed, towards the end of the play Jo says to Geof "You know, I wish she was here all the same." Jo's feelings for her mother are complex!
  • Question 3

Delaney shows Helen using a dark humour that reveals a fatalistic attitude and a resignation to her fate.

 

However, Delaney shows some contradictory aspects to this attitude in the advice Helen gives Jo, when she suggests that she believes that people can decide what they become.

 

Match the quotations below to what Delaney is showing us about Helen's attitude to life.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"We're all at the steering wheel ...
Delaney's metaphor suggests that ...
"Careering along like drunken dri...
The simile Delaney uses evokes im...
"We all have funny ideas at that ...
Some of Helen's dialogue has a de...
"I certainly supervised my own do...
In some of Helen's dialogue, Dela...
EDDIE SAYS
This is a tricky one! Delaney certainly depicts some complex characters that require some deep analysis. Helen's attitude to life is contradictory. Her dark humour related to death and her focus on fate shows a depressing acceptance of her lot in life. Yet, Delaney sometimes gives us a little glimmer of suggestion that Helen, deep down, still believes a little that you can change your path in life. Perhaps it's too late for Helen but there's some suggestion she believes that Jo could do better - after all, even early on in the play we see her tell Jo she's 'wasting' herself by not going to art school. Delaney shows the working class struggle here and the difficulty in escaping from the limitations of this life.
  • Question 4

While Jo is keen to achieve independence from her mother, Delaney reveals other attributes in the character of Jo.

 

In the following quotation, what emotion is revealed most? 

 

"Jo: I'll probably never see you again. I know it.

 

Boy: What makes you say that?

 

Jo: I just know it. That's all. But I don't care. Stay with me now, it's enough, it's all I want, and if you do come back I'll still be here."

CORRECT ANSWER
Insecurity
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how Jo doesn't believe the Boy will come back to her, even when he reassures her. Here Delaney highlights Jo's insecurity in the relationships she forms. This shows the effect of the rejection Jo has faced throughout her childhood, where her mother has failed to prioritise her or offer her affection. Her relationship with her mother is now affecting her adult relationships.
  • Question 5

Delaney uses the symbolism of darkness in her play.

 

What does darkness suggest about Jo's character in the following quotation?

 

"I'm not frightened of the darkness outside. It's the darkness inside houses I don't like."

 

Complete the passage below to analyse this symbolism.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
When we're analysing characters in the exam, it's important to look at the techniques the writer uses to present the character. In 'A Taste of Honey', symbolism is important and a great technique to analyse in order to show off your analytical skills. Delaney's symbolism of darkness in houses in Jo's dialogue reveals how she feels insecurity around people. If we look at the connotations of darkness, we might think of the unknown. Jo can't trust people - after all, her first relationship in life, the one with her mother, has been uncertain and unreliable and is affecting how she feels about building relationships with other people now.
  • Question 6

Delaney shows how, despite struggling to build relationships, Jo feels safe and secure around Geof.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment that explains what Delaney shows us about Jo and Geof's relationship.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"You see, it's not marrying love ...
Delaney shows that Jo feels secur...
"I always want to have you with m...
Delaney shows that Jo feels safe ...
"You've reformed me, some of the ...
Delaney reveals how Geof has help...
"Someone's got to look after you....
Delaney shows that, while Jo has ...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Notice how Jo often refers to Geof as like a woman or making a good wife. In fact, he offers Jo something between a husband and a mother and Jo takes great security from this. He isn't going to break her heart like she has experienced from romantic love and he offers so much more genuine care, affection and reliability than her own mother. Delaney highlights that Geof's feelings for Jo are genuine when we see his concern for her at the end of the play - "Only just don't frighten her, that's all." Delaney challenges the gender stereotype of the 1950's through the character of Geof.
  • Question 7

The relationship between Helen and Peter is used by Delaney to show more about the relationship between Helen and Jo.

 

Using the words below, complete the analytical passage.

 

- Defending

- Slapstick

- Attachment 

- Comical

- Attacking

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Delaney often uses the other relationships in the play to highlight aspects of Helen and Jo's relationship. These scenes really highlight the contradictory feelings that both Helen and Jo feel for each other and allow Delaney to convey the complexity of their relationship. Often these scenes are comical and the audience would find them funny, but underneath the humour there clearly lies some deeper emotions at play.
  • Question 8

The structure of Act one, Scene two is interesting. Delaney has used a four part structure, which alternates between scenes with Jo and the Boy and scenes with Helen and Jo.

 

Why do you think Delaney chose to use this structure?

CORRECT ANSWER
So that the audience can make a direct comparison of the two relationships
EDDIE SAYS
When analysing character, it's also important in the exam to comment on how they are presented through the writer's techniques. Structure is one of the techniques used and, in this scene, it is particularly important. By placing Jo's relationship with the Boy next to the one with her mother, we see the differences between the two. We see that Jo's relationship with the Boy is based on genuine love and affection, whereas the relationship with her mother involves rejection and neglect. At the same time, Delaney also highlights how Jo's insecurity in her relationship with the Boy stems from the unreliable nature of her relationship with her mother.
  • Question 9

Is Jo a hopeful character in the play?

 

Match the quotations below to what Delaney is showing us about Jo's character.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I'm not planning big plans for t...
Delaney presents Jo as sceptical ...
"I can do anything when I set my ...
Delaney shows Jo as determined to...
"Do you know, for the first time ...
Delaney shows that Jo feels most ...
"I hope they bloom. Always before...
The symbolism of Jo's bulbs is us...
"They're dead. It makes you think...
Delaney's symbolism of Jo's bulbs...
EDDIE SAYS
This is a tricky one and one with a complex answer! If we analyse Jo's character, on the one hand, we can say that Delaney presents her as hopeful for her future. In particular, she wants her mother to see her determination to achieve more than she did. However, at other times we see her cautious about hoping for too much. The bulbs might symbolise her beginning aspirations but finding them dead might suggest that Jo will repeat the cycle of neglect shown by her mother. However, it's also worth looking at the ending stage directions where Jo is "smiling a little to herself" - could this ambiguous ending suggest hope for Jo after all? What is your personal response?
  • Question 10

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular character in the play.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

 

For the highest marks you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: Explore how Jo is presented in 'A Taste of Honey'.

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Delaney presents Jo as an insecure character. We learn very early on in the play that she feels neglected by Helen when she says "You've never been affectionate with me." While on the one hand, this spurs Jo on to become independent and "get a bit of money in my pocket", on the other hand Delaney shows Jo's jealousy of Helen's relationship with Peter. We see Jo attack Peter when she "throws the lid at him", saying "leave my mother alone too." The use of the 'my' as a possessive pronoun is important here in showing that, despite feeling rejected, Jo still feels some attachment to her mother and doesn't want this taken away from her. Similarly, Jo's insecurity is revealed through her other relationships. The way in which Jo says to the Boy "I'll probably never see you again" reveals her feelings of insecurity, stemming from the unreliability in her relationship with her mother. She projects her feelings from her relationship with her mother onto her other relationships. Delaney shows here a common aspect of the working class struggle in the 1950's, where poverty and neglect led to difficulty in building relationships.
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