The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Identify Key Quotes in 'Before You Were Mine'

In this worksheet, students will be revising key quotes in 'Before You Were Mine' (Carol Ann Duffy) as part of the 'Love and Relationships' cluster.

'Identify Key Quotes in 'Before You Were Mine'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Love and Relationships: 'Before You Were Mine'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Refer to the poem 'Before You Were Mine' in your anthology.

Here's a quick recap of the poem: it's written by the poet Carol Ann Duffy, as she looks at an old picture of her mother. In the poem, Duffy imagines what her mother's life must have been like before she had her. 

Thought bubble

This activity should help you revise some key quotes and help deepen your understanding of the poem. In the following questions, you'll be given a quote from the poem, and you'll need to identify the poet's meaning behind it.

Old Fashioned Camera

It may be helpful to write the quotes down as you do this exercise so you can try and remember them for the future!

 

 

What does the first line of the poem suggest? Choose two correct answers.

"I'm ten years away" suggests that Duffy hasn't been born yet

The mother laughing shows she was fun and carefree before Duffy was born

Duffy is portraying the mother negatively because she is jealous of her mother's carefree past

The quote is stating that the mother needs to look after Duffy and stop laughing with her friends

"Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn."

 

What do you think this quote suggests?

 

Duffy likens her mother to Marilyn Monroe to suggest she had a glamorous life before she had Duffy

Duffy likens her mother to Marilyn Monroe, which suggests that her mother is blonde

Duffy likens her mother to Marilyn Monroe, which suggests that her mother wanted to be a movie star

"I'm not here yet. The thought of me doesn't occur in the ballroom with the thousand eyes..."

 

What does this quote suggest? There are two correct answers.

Duffy is watching her mother dance with her father in a ballroom

Duffy is imagining her mother dancing in a ballroom as the centre of attention

The use of the adjectives "fizzy" and "movie" describes the mother's exciting romantic past

The use of the adjectives "fizzy" and "movie" is about Duffy's romantic relationships

"Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close with a hiding for the late one."

 

What does this quote suggest? There are two correct answers.

Duffy is highlighting her mother's rebellious youth

Duffy is highlighting the fact that her mother cheated on her father

Duffy is highlighting her own rebellious youth

Duffy is highlighting that her mother believed living life by her own rules was worth the consequences

red high heels

Duffy refers to her mother's high-heeled red shoes as "relics". What does this suggest?

 

The noun "relics" suggests that the mother wears the heels every day

The noun "relics" suggests that the mother has not worn the heels in a very long time

The noun "relics" suggests that the mother is old

Why do you think the mother is described as a "ghost" in the third stanza? There are two right answers.

The mother is described as a ghost because she has an illness

The mother is described as a ghost because she only wears grey, dull clothes

The mother is described as a ghost because she is not really there. Duffy is imagining her mother walking toward her, in the context of her old life

The mother is described as a ghost to really emphasise the death of her old personality

Look at this quote:

 

"...till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree..."

 

What do you think Duffy means? 

 

Duffy is imagining her mother (before she had Duffy), "under the tree" with a lover

Duffy is watching her mother standing under a tree

Duffy is imagining her mother (before she had Duffy) putting perfume on

"...and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?"

 

What do you think Duffy is suggesting in her use of the rhetorical question?

 

Duffy is playfully suggesting that her mother has been bitten by insects

Duffy is playfully suggesting that her mother used to fool around with boys and get love-bites on her neck

Duffy is playfully suggesting that her mother is fooling around with her dad and getting love-bites from him

What does the quote about the mother teaching Duffy to dance on the way home from Mass suggest?

 

The quote highlights how religious the mother is now

The quote calls to attention the idea of religion as something which is fun and makes Duffy's mother happy

The quote calls religion to attention, which emphasises the contrast between Duffy's mother's sexual, carefree past with her serious, sombre present

What does the last line of the poem suggest about Duffy's feelings about her relationship with her mother?

 

There are two correct answers.

The quote suggests that Duffy is glad she has such a great, loving mum

The quote suggests that Duffy feels guilty for her mother's life

The quote suggests that Duffy wants her mum to be more like her past self

The quote suggests that Duffy feels guilty for enjoying herself while her mother cannot

  • Question 1

What does the first line of the poem suggest? Choose two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"I'm ten years away" suggests that Duffy hasn't been born yet
The mother laughing shows she was fun and carefree before Duffy was born
EDDIE SAYS
In the first line of the poem, Duffy is presented as "ten years away" and therefore distant from her mother (because she has not been born yet). Duffy's absence is presented as something quite creepy, almost like a physical threat.
  • Question 2

"Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn."

 

What do you think this quote suggests?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy likens her mother to Marilyn Monroe to suggest she had a glamorous life before she had Duffy
EDDIE SAYS
Duffy is referring to a scene from the 1955 movie 'The Seven Year Itch', in which Marilyn Monroe's dress blows around her legs. We can infer from the comparison that Duffy's mother was glamorous and beautiful, like Marilyn. Likewise, the reference to her "polka-dot dress" brings to mind a fun, colourful pattern. Marilyn Monroe was a movie star, so we can infer that Duffy is painting her mother's past as a movie. The language brings to mind a picturesque snapshot of Duffy's mother's life.
  • Question 3

"I'm not here yet. The thought of me doesn't occur in the ballroom with the thousand eyes..."

 

What does this quote suggest? There are two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is imagining her mother dancing in a ballroom as the centre of attention
The use of the adjectives "fizzy" and "movie" describes the mother's exciting romantic past
EDDIE SAYS
Again, there's a link between Duffy not being born and her mother's enjoyment. Her mother was carefree before having Duffy. The "fizzy, movie tomorrows" invoke the excitement and anticipation that the mother might be feeling over potential boyfriends and suitors walking her home at night. Duffy gives her mum a youthful, flirty and excitable personality here. But the tone is definitely still tinged with sadness. Duffy writes, "the thought of me doesn't occur", which emphasises that Duffy hasn't been born yet, but also that motherhood has not yet occupied the mum's thoughts and snatched away all the fun, cinematic aspects in her life.
  • Question 4

"Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close with a hiding for the late one."

 

What does this quote suggest? There are two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is highlighting her mother's rebellious youth
Duffy is highlighting that her mother believed living life by her own rules was worth the consequences
EDDIE SAYS
The quote showcases the mother's rebelliousness (further demonstrated earlier in the poem, when Duffy writes about her mother's past sexual relationships). Duffy's mother knew that coming back late would earn her a "hiding" (beating), but she believed it was worth it for the fun she had. The quote contains an interesting reference to Duffy's mother as a daughter. We tend to forget that our mums had lives before us, which probably involved getting into trouble with their own parents.
  • Question 5

red high heels

Duffy refers to her mother's high-heeled red shoes as "relics". What does this suggest?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The noun "relics" suggests that the mother has not worn the heels in a very long time
EDDIE SAYS
Duffy's use of the noun "relics" really emphasises that these red high-heeled shoes haven't been worn for a long time. If something is a relic, it's old and no longer used. An odd way to describe red high-heels! The red high-heels are, really, symbolic of the mother's past life, which she has left behind. Just like the colourful and patterned polka-dot dress, referenced in stanza one, the red heels evoke a sense of brightness and colour. Red is also the colour of love and passion; high heels suggest femininity and sex-appeal. Alas, all these things are a part of Duffy's mother's past!
  • Question 6

Why do you think the mother is described as a "ghost" in the third stanza? There are two right answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
The mother is described as a ghost because she is not really there. Duffy is imagining her mother walking toward her, in the context of her old life
The mother is described as a ghost to really emphasise the death of her old personality
EDDIE SAYS
The mother being described as a ghost illustrates that her past self has died. There is the sense that Duffy's mother has sacrificed the fun and carefree aspects of her personality to become a mum to Duffy. The use of the noun "ghost" also emphasises the idea of death, as if the lively aspects of Duffy's mother's personality had to die for her to become a mum. Could Duffy's mother be dead? Possibly. But we can definitely delve deeper and look at the mother as metaphorically dead.
  • Question 7

Look at this quote:

 

"...till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree..."

 

What do you think Duffy means? 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is imagining her mother (before she had Duffy), "under the tree" with a lover
EDDIE SAYS
It's interesting that Duffy describes her mother as a 'ghost', whereas, in the past, she is "clear as scent". This works to emphasise that Duffy sees her mother's past as more vibrant and clear than her present. This kind of language is interesting because Duffy couldn't possibly have known her mother before she was born- it would be physically impossible! Yet, the mother's past personality seems so vibrant (lively and energetic) to Duffy.
  • Question 8

"...and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?"

 

What do you think Duffy is suggesting in her use of the rhetorical question?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is playfully suggesting that her mother used to fool around with boys and get love-bites on her neck
EDDIE SAYS
Not only does Duffy suggest that her mother used to engage in sexual liaisons with boys (the small bites on her neck are referring to love-bites), but she does so in a playful and teasing manner. This is done through the use of the rhetorical question and the endearment "sweetheart". In this way, the tone mimics the mother's playful past. Remember to look at tone, especially in this poem. It's quite easy to grasp, once you get the hang of it.
  • Question 9

What does the quote about the mother teaching Duffy to dance on the way home from Mass suggest?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote calls religion to attention, which emphasises the contrast between Duffy's mother's sexual, carefree past with her serious, sombre present
EDDIE SAYS
Whereas before, Duffy references a "ballroom" where the mother is presumably dancing with her suitors ("I knew you would dance like that"), causing her to come home late and get told off by her mother ("your Ma stands at the close ..."'), now she is dancing with her daughter on the way home from Mass. The religious connotations of Mass suggest family, stability and morality. Definitely a contrast to Duffy's mother's sexual, rebellious and boisterous past! Adding to this, Duffy's mother is dancing with her daughter, now. It's an intrusive reminder that Duffy exists. What a bummer.
  • Question 10

What does the last line of the poem suggest about Duffy's feelings about her relationship with her mother?

 

There are two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote suggests that Duffy feels guilty for her mother's life
The quote suggests that Duffy wants her mum to be more like her past self
EDDIE SAYS
This last quote cements that Duffy feels accountable for taking away her mother's past identity. The very last words "before you were mine", the title of the poem, solidifies that Duffy has possessed her mother, and taken her away from the fun-loving and carefree girl she once was (the possessive pronoun 'mine' really emphasises this). It's obvious that Duffy can't help being born. But there's definitely an element of sadness or wistfulness to the poem. As if Duffy feels guilty for taking away a vital part of her mother by being born.
---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.