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Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of Themes in 'A Taste of Honey'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate the effectiveness of the presentation of themes in 'A Taste of Honey', by exploring the techniques the writer uses to present them and their impact in reflecting the context in which the play was written.

'Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of Themes 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

 

For the highest marks in the exam you need to show an excellent understanding of the relationship between the play and the context in which it was written.

 

To show that you are writing about ideas in the play in relation to context, you might use sentences such as:

 

Delaney presents the theme of ......... to show the audience that during the 1950's working class families struggled to...

 

Delaney explores ......... as a theme throughout the play in order to subvert the traditional gender stereotypes of the 1950's.

 

The theme of .......... is presented by Delaney who had the intention of....

 

 

For each theme explored, think:

 

How is the theme presented effectively to show us something about the 1950's, in which the play was written and set?

 

Remember that you also need to closely analyse the techniques that Delaney uses to present these themes.

 

Now have a go at the following activity, which will help you to evaluate the effectiveness of the themes in play.

Responsibility is a key theme in 'A Taste of Honey'.

 

For the majority of the play, we see Delaney present Helen as an irresponsible mother through the eyes of her daughter Jo. However, she returns to "look after" Jo near the end of the play.

 

Do you think that Delaney suggests that Helen has changed and will be able to be a responsible mother to Jo?

 

Click on all the sentences that you feel accurately evaluates the final presentation of Helen in the play.

Delaney presents ambiguity at the end of the play. Helen is shown to be going for a drink and when Jo asks "Are you coming back?" Helen replies "Yes". The audience is left wondering whether she will return to Jo. Based on her reaction to Jo telling her that the baby will be black, we have to question whether her close-minded attitude will prevent her from overcoming the shame she feels about this and be there for her daughter

Delaney shows Helen to be judgemental of Geof and force him to leave. She repeatedly suggests he should leave with comments such as "Are you off now?" and "I thought you said you were going", despite Jo expressing how Geof makes her feel "important". Delaney highlights that perhaps Helen isn't being genuinely responsible here, by failing to recognise the importance of Geof in Jo's life. Instead, she allows her need to control Jo and her prejudice to take priority over really showing care for her daughter. Here Delaney appears to suggest that Helen has not changed after all

Delaney uses exclamatory language to show Helen's shock when she finds out the baby will be black. "Oh my God!" is repeated, revealing the incredulity Helen feels. Coupled with her focus on what people will think when she says "Can you see me wheeling a pram with a ..." this perhaps indicates that she won't be able to overcome her fear to focus on caring for her daughter. Delaney shows Helen's attitude to be representative of the judgemental attitudes towards mixed race relationships of the 1950's society she was writing about

Delaney shows that Helen has completely changed when she returns to Jo. She is shown to take responsibility by sorting the house for Jo, having brought her a cot, and reassuring Jo that she will return after her drink. Delaney offers the audience reassurance that now that Geof has left, Jo will be able to rely on her mother for emotional support

Jo is also used by Delaney to explore the theme of responsibility. 

 

Delaney compares Jo's and Helen's attitude towards responsibility.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment that explores what Delaney shows the audience about the theme of responsibility.

Column A

Column B

"I hope they bloom"
Delaney's symbolism of the bulbs reveals Jo's atte...
"Why do you bother?"
Delaney contrasts Jo's early optimism with her lat...
"They never grew"
Helen's attitude to Jo growing bulbs in the apartm...

Independence and dependence are explored throughout the play.

 

Look at the ending stage directions - what do you think Delaney suggests about the idea of independence and dependence here? Complete the passage below.

Column A

Column B

"I hope they bloom"
Delaney's symbolism of the bulbs reveals Jo's atte...
"Why do you bother?"
Delaney contrasts Jo's early optimism with her lat...
"They never grew"
Helen's attitude to Jo growing bulbs in the apartm...

The theme of parental responsibility is explored through the use of children's singing and nursery rhymes in the play.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment showing what Delaney shows us through the use of these songs and nursery rhymes. 

Column A

Column B

"I was going up Pippin Hill"
Helen's nostalgia for her childhood allows Delaney...
"Children are heard singing in the street"
Delaney's focus on children singing in the stage d...
"In the summer we had singing games"
Delaney's repetition of Geof's nursery rhyme, sung...

hob

 

Delaney also uses domestic symbolism to highlight aspects of responsibility.

 

For example, Delaney shows that "Geof'll fix it", showing us that he is a responsible adult.

 

Which line in the last scene shows Delaney highlighting that Helen is still not a responsible adult? Remember to use quotation marks.

Race is presented as a theme in the play.

 

While Delaney presents Helen's views as typical of the judgemental 1950's society, who were prejudiced against mixed race relationships, Jo is presented as open-minded.

 

Complete the passage below to analyse the importance of this theme in the play.

Delaney uses irony in the play to present the theme of class.

 

Helen's attitude towards poverty is ironic, as she is part of this working class struggle.

 

Match the quotations below to what they show about Helen's attitude to poverty.

Column A

Column B

"The whole district's rotten, it's not fit to live...
After returning from being with Peter, Helen is cr...
"Why don't you take a bit of pride in yourself? Gr...
Helen looks down on where Jo is living, despite br...
"I've ordered a proper cot of the latest design, i...
Helen's focus on the material items Jo needs for b...

Bee on a flower

 

'A Taste of Honey' explores the idea that people all have their moments of happiness, and questions whether this means they will be suffer for this happiness - Delaney alludes to a line from the bible which says: "I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die".

 

How hopeful is the ending of the play in presenting the theme of happiness? Click on all relevant answers below.

Jo had happiness with the Boy, but he leaves her, showing that happiness for Jo was fleeting and she is left with an unwanted pregnancy. To some extent therefore, Jo's future is unhopeful

While we can view Jo's pregnancy as her punishment for her moment of happiness. The way in which she is left "smiling to herself" at the end might actually suggest hope for Jo, who can now live as a independent working mother

Helen had fleeting happiness with Peter, but he cheats on her. She returns to her working class life, but doesn't express much pain when she says "Still, it was good while it lasted". Whilst her ending doesn't seem that hopeful, she doesn't see to suffer. Helen shows an acceptance of her lot in life

All of the characters are punished for their moments of happiness. Delaney shows that happiness is not possible for the working class characters she presents. We are left with an unhopeful ending for all characters

Geof found happiness with Jo but is forced out by Helen. We don't know what the future holds for Geof, but perhaps the social isolation he experienced earlier when thrown out of his flat will continue for Geof in this prejudiced 1950's society, where homosexual activity was still illegal

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 theme in the play.

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How are ideas about class presented in 'A Taste of Honey'?

 

Try to write three paragraphs.

Now try this mini essay task...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write three paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph, where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response.

 

To what extent does Delaney present the typical prejudice during the 1950's to race and mixed race relationship?

  • Question 1

Responsibility is a key theme in 'A Taste of Honey'.

 

For the majority of the play, we see Delaney present Helen as an irresponsible mother through the eyes of her daughter Jo. However, she returns to "look after" Jo near the end of the play.

 

Do you think that Delaney suggests that Helen has changed and will be able to be a responsible mother to Jo?

 

Click on all the sentences that you feel accurately evaluates the final presentation of Helen in the play.

CORRECT ANSWER
Delaney presents ambiguity at the end of the play. Helen is shown to be going for a drink and when Jo asks "Are you coming back?" Helen replies "Yes". The audience is left wondering whether she will return to Jo. Based on her reaction to Jo telling her that the baby will be black, we have to question whether her close-minded attitude will prevent her from overcoming the shame she feels about this and be there for her daughter
Delaney shows Helen to be judgemental of Geof and force him to leave. She repeatedly suggests he should leave with comments such as "Are you off now?" and "I thought you said you were going", despite Jo expressing how Geof makes her feel "important". Delaney highlights that perhaps Helen isn't being genuinely responsible here, by failing to recognise the importance of Geof in Jo's life. Instead, she allows her need to control Jo and her prejudice to take priority over really showing care for her daughter. Here Delaney appears to suggest that Helen has not changed after all
Delaney uses exclamatory language to show Helen's shock when she finds out the baby will be black. "Oh my God!" is repeated, revealing the incredulity Helen feels. Coupled with her focus on what people will think when she says "Can you see me wheeling a pram with a ..." this perhaps indicates that she won't be able to overcome her fear to focus on caring for her daughter. Delaney shows Helen's attitude to be representative of the judgemental attitudes towards mixed race relationships of the 1950's society she was writing about
EDDIE SAYS
The first three are all relevant here. Remember - for the highest marks, we need to look at the writer's craft in presenting themes and also how they reflect context. Notice how the selected explanations comment on the techniques of repetition, ambiguity and exclamatory language - here we're commenting on the writer's craft. Context is considered when Helen's attitude is described as representative of the close minded attitude to mixed race relationships in the 1950's. Most important in our analysis of the theme of responsibility presented through the character of Helen is the focus on the ambiguous ending - the audience is left wondering whether she'll return and perhaps expect that she will not be able to overcome the shame she feels around the baby being black.
  • Question 2

Jo is also used by Delaney to explore the theme of responsibility. 

 

Delaney compares Jo's and Helen's attitude towards responsibility.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment that explores what Delaney shows the audience about the theme of responsibility.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I hope they bloom"
Delaney's symbolism of the bulbs ...
"Why do you bother?"
Helen's attitude to Jo growing bu...
"They never grew"
Delaney contrasts Jo's early opti...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? The writer's craft that has been explored in these analytical comments is the use of symbolism. The bulb symbolism is important in the play in showing the contrasting attitudes of Jo and Helen to their lot in life and also to raise questions about Jo's future. Will she be able to change her life for the better? Also note the links to context in the comments above - the working class struggle during the 1950's is one that Delaney is keen to present. She shows the difficulties in overcoming these struggles and the repetitive cycle of deprivation this involved, but at the same time suggests that there does lie some hope in the younger generation, who showed more optimism and determination to change their futures.
  • Question 3

Independence and dependence are explored throughout the play.

 

Look at the ending stage directions - what do you think Delaney suggests about the idea of independence and dependence here? Complete the passage below.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Delaney's use of the ambiguous ending leaves the audience asking questions about the idea of independence. Jo shows some determination earlier in this scene when she says "I can work for the baby myself". Here Delaney shows how the younger generation during the 1950's showed a shifting attitude towards gender roles and making a better future for themselves - Jo wants to be a working mother, which subverts the gender stereotype of this time. However, we also question whether she'll achieve this kind of independence when she seems to still need to depend on someone, this time Geof. But even if this is the case, Delaney presents the idea of a different kind of family unit from the traditional 1950's male bread-winner and female stay at home mum.
  • Question 4

The theme of parental responsibility is explored through the use of children's singing and nursery rhymes in the play.

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment showing what Delaney shows us through the use of these songs and nursery rhymes. 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I was going up Pippin Hill"
Delaney's repetition of Geof's nu...
"Children are heard singing in th...
Delaney's focus on children singi...
"In the summer we had singing gam...
Helen's nostalgia for her childho...
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! The technique being used by Delaney is the symbolism of children's songs and nursery rhymes, and this symbolism is used to explore the idea of parental responsibility. Children's songs and nursery rhymes reminds us of the innocence of childhood, which in turn forces us to question the characters' ability to fulfil their parental responsibility. Whilst Delaney highlights the dependence children have on their parents, she also sympathetically portrays the working class struggle, showing her audiences that sometimes life circumstances make this kind of responsibility difficult.
  • Question 5

hob

 

Delaney also uses domestic symbolism to highlight aspects of responsibility.

 

For example, Delaney shows that "Geof'll fix it", showing us that he is a responsible adult.

 

Which line in the last scene shows Delaney highlighting that Helen is still not a responsible adult? Remember to use quotation marks.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Oh Jo, I've forgotten how we used to light this thing"
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find it? Delaney presents a contrast between Geof and Helen though this domestic symbolism. Helen is shown to not know how to work things, suggesting she doesn't have the capability of being a responsible mother to Jo, whilst Geof can be relied on to fix things. Delaney forces us to question gender stereotypes here - Geof fits well into the domestic scene, while Helen doesn't. Delaney subverts the traditional gender roles of the 1950's, challenging the assumption of the parental responsibility that women are expected to fulfil.
  • Question 6

Race is presented as a theme in the play.

 

While Delaney presents Helen's views as typical of the judgemental 1950's society, who were prejudiced against mixed race relationships, Jo is presented as open-minded.

 

Complete the passage below to analyse the importance of this theme in the play.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Delaney contrasts the younger and older generation's views about mixed race relationships, highlighting that, during the 1950's, the younger generation had the ability to change the status quo and build on acceptance. The symbolism of the baby due to be born is one of the most important to this theme - it's physically half white and half black and is a physical embodiment of two races coming together to create something beautiful. Delaney celebrates diversity here. This also made her a revolutionary writer in presenting such a controversial theme at this time in her play.
  • Question 7

Delaney uses irony in the play to present the theme of class.

 

Helen's attitude towards poverty is ironic, as she is part of this working class struggle.

 

Match the quotations below to what they show about Helen's attitude to poverty.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"The whole district's rotten, it'...
Helen looks down on where Jo is l...
"Why don't you take a bit of prid...
After returning from being with P...
"I've ordered a proper cot of the...
Helen's focus on the material ite...
EDDIE SAYS
Helen's attitude is a difficult one to pin down. She certainly seems shameful of the working class life, but is part of this herself. Using men to get out of this and have money seems to be more important to Helen than her relationship with her daughter. After Helen tastes a little of life with more money, she returns even more judgemental and shameful of own daughter's lifestyle. Delaney highlights the irony in Helen's attitude when this is the upbringing she has given her daughter. Delaney uses this irony to highlight the shame felt around living as a working class family.
  • Question 8

Bee on a flower

 

'A Taste of Honey' explores the idea that people all have their moments of happiness, and questions whether this means they will be suffer for this happiness - Delaney alludes to a line from the bible which says: "I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die".

 

How hopeful is the ending of the play in presenting the theme of happiness? Click on all relevant answers below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Jo had happiness with the Boy, but he leaves her, showing that happiness for Jo was fleeting and she is left with an unwanted pregnancy. To some extent therefore, Jo's future is unhopeful
While we can view Jo's pregnancy as her punishment for her moment of happiness. The way in which she is left "smiling to herself" at the end might actually suggest hope for Jo, who can now live as a independent working mother
Helen had fleeting happiness with Peter, but he cheats on her. She returns to her working class life, but doesn't express much pain when she says "Still, it was good while it lasted". Whilst her ending doesn't seem that hopeful, she doesn't see to suffer. Helen shows an acceptance of her lot in life
Geof found happiness with Jo but is forced out by Helen. We don't know what the future holds for Geof, but perhaps the social isolation he experienced earlier when thrown out of his flat will continue for Geof in this prejudiced 1950's society, where homosexual activity was still illegal
EDDIE SAYS
There are actually four that accurately evaluate the presentation of happiness in the play. Delaney refers to the biblical allusion of being punished for a moment's happiness and we can see that happiness does end in pain for many of the characters. However, Delaney also challenges this, suggesting that more happiness is possible for some of the characters. Jo seems to have accepted her mother's unreliable nature and seems determined to become a successful working mother. Helen returns to Jo to support her, although whether she will stay, we are not sure. Delaney shows working class life as a struggle but also suggests there is hope. The only character whose future seems unpromising is Geof. The context of the 1950's society suggests that he'll once again experience the social isolation and prejudice he experienced before his partnership with Jo.
  • Question 9

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 theme in the play.

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How are ideas about class presented in 'A Taste of Honey'?

 

Try to write three paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Delaney's 'A Taste of Honey' portrays Jo and Helen as a working class family. She was considered as part of a new wave of playwrights who wrote 'kitchen sink' realism, deciding to portray working class life rather than the usual upper or upper middle classes. In this way, Delaney was already seen as revolutionary. Delaney presents the poor living conditions of working class families in the opening scene of the play, where everything is shown to be "falling apart". Helen's acceptance of this life is shown through "what's wrong with this place?", showing that many working class families had accepted their fate. At the same time, Delaney shows Jo, the younger generation, as hopeful of building a better future for herself. Delaney's symbolism of Jo's bulbs and her hopeful language in "I hope they bloom" allows Delaney to highlight that the younger generation's changing attitudes to life during the 1950's allowed an opportunity of breaking free of some of the problems of growing up in working class family.
  • Question 10

Now try this mini essay task...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write three paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph, where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response.

 

To what extent does Delaney present the typical prejudice during the 1950's to race and mixed race relationship?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Delaney highlights the judgemental nature of 1950's society towards mixed race relationships when the Boy reacts to Jo with "You're the first girl I've met who really didn't care". Here Delaney shows that the Boy is more familiar with prejudice and judgement than the open-mindedness that Jo is showing him when she says "I don't care" to his question "Afraid someone'll see us?". The confidence and assertiveness shown through Jo's use of language here would have been seen as shocking to Delaney's 1950's audience. Delaney presents a social message that the younger generation, who were showing a shift in attitude from their parents during the 1950's, could be the driving force behind social change and more acceptance of a diverse society. Therefore, as well as presenting the typical prejudice seen in society at this time, Delaney also shows her audience an alternative.
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