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Evaluate Language Techniques in 'Before You Were Mine'

In this worksheet, students will be tested on their evaluation of language. Students will be able to hone their understanding of why certain words are used and their impact. This activity is a mixed one, meaning it will require some manual marking, the mark scheme has been added.

'Evaluate Language Techniques 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

 'Before You Were Mine' - revision of language evaluation skills.

 

Thought bubble

 

Hopefully, you know 'Before You Were Mine' well enough by now to be able to evaluate Duffy's choices of language in the poem. Remember, evaluating language is actually quite simple if you break it down into these two points:

 

What attitudes are expressed by the poet through this language choice?

What effect does this word have on you, the reader?

 

 

When we break up our language evaluation into these two points, it is easier to get into the nitty gritty of word choice. It also helps to evaluate language by putting ourselves in the speaker of the poem's shoes. Why does the poet use specific words and what is the effect of these words?

 

 

Here's an example of language evaluation to get you going don't worry, you won't have to do anything as long as this in the exercise:

 

In the first stanza, Duffy writes that her mother and her friends '"shriek at the pavement". The verb "shriek" emphasises the mother's carefree past with her friends. This suggests that Duffy's mother feels comfortable laughing loud enough to call attention to herself. This links to the last stanza, where Duffy says she wants the "bold girl winking in Portobello". The use of the adjective "bold" builds Duffy's mother as someone who was confident. The effects of the words "shriek" and 'bold' are that they present the mother as someone who was once boisterous, loud and carefree. 

"I'm ten years away from the corner you stand on..."

 

How does the pronoun "I'm" in this quote present Duffy?

 

There are two correct answers.

Duffy is stating that she is "ten years away" from her mother, presenting time as a form of distance

Duffy begins with "I'm ten years away", which suggests that she is putting herself at a distance from her mother

Duffy begins with the pronoun "I'm", which highlights her role in the poem as important

Duffy begins the poem with "I'm ten years away", which suggests that she is laughing with her mother

Why is the word "relics" an interesting/strange word to use for a pair of red high-heels? 

 

All the answers below are correct. Pick the one that you think is the most detailed.

 

 

It is odd that the word "relics" is used to describe high heels

It is odd that the word "relics" is used to describe red high heels, because relics are usually old and faded, but red heels are vibrant and pretty

It is odd that the word "relics" is used to describe 'red high-heels', because relics are usually preserved in museums and red heels are usually a luxury item

It is odd that the word "relics" is used to describe red high-heels because relics are old and frozen in time, whereas red heels, contrastingly, are a symbol of sexuality and freedom

"...clear as scent"

 

Why is this such an interesting quotation?  

 

There are two right answers.

"Clear as scent" suggests that Duffy is watching her mother's ghost

"Clear as scent" is odd because "clear" is associated with sight, not scent

"Clear as scent" is odd because a scent cannot be clear

"Clear as scent" suggests that Duffy sees her mother's past more clearly than her present

Give one example of a metaphor in the poem which presents the mother as glamorous.

 

Hint: there are only two metaphors which are associated with glamour. 

In stanza three, Duffy rhetorically asks her mother about the love-bites on her neck. 

 

Why do you think she adds the endearment "sweetheart"?

 

There are three correct answers.

"Sweetheart" suggests that Duffy is doing a role-reversal by acting like a mother here

"Sweetheart" implies that Duffy loves her mother

"Sweetheart" implies that Duffy is being playful and teasing with her mum

"Sweetheart" implies a close relationship between Duffy and her mother

"Sweetheart" implies that Duffy is being sarcastic with her mother through the rhetorical question, and that she is jealous

What is the importance of describing the mother's high-heeled red shoes as relics?

 

The word "relics" implies that the mother is old

The word "relics" implies that the shoes are old

The word "relics" implies that the shoes are never used

The word "relics" implies that everything the shoes symbolise - freedom, sexuality and youth - are a thing of the past

Look at the specific linguistic use of "stamping stars".

 

 

What language device is Duffy using here? 

What kind of word classification is "stamping"?

What effect does "stamping stars" have? Is there any other quote which you can link this one to?

 

You only need three sentences for three marks.

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

 

 Evaluate Duffy's use of sensory language here. 

 

Comment on the different senses presented by Duffy.

 

You only need two words here: the two senses which Duffy brings up.

Evaluate the use of the word "Marilyn" at the end of the first stanza. Remember, keep it concise - three sentences should do the trick. 

 

1. What kind of word classification is "Marilyn"?

2. What effect does this word have?

"The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?"

 

 Evaluate Duffy's use of "loud, possessive yell".

 

Again, remember to identify what type of word classification Duffy uses.

 

Three sentences should do the trick.

  • Question 1

"I'm ten years away from the corner you stand on..."

 

How does the pronoun "I'm" in this quote present Duffy?

 

There are two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is stating that she is "ten years away" from her mother, presenting time as a form of distance
Duffy begins with "I'm ten years away", which suggests that she is putting herself at a distance from her mother
EDDIE SAYS
Good start! The beginning of the poem is an important look into time and distance. The language is presented as if Duffy is on her way - "I'm ten years away", making it seem as if "ten years" is a form of distance, not time. Very interesting, because the poem condenses time into something that is not sequenced, but layered. There is also an element of foreshadowing or foreboding. Duffy is there to ruin her mother's laughter. Kind of sad when you think about it, no?
  • Question 2

Why is the word "relics" an interesting/strange word to use for a pair of red high-heels? 

 

All the answers below are correct. Pick the one that you think is the most detailed.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It is odd that the word "relics" is used to describe red high-heels because relics are old and frozen in time, whereas red heels, contrastingly, are a symbol of sexuality and freedom
EDDIE SAYS
Don't worry if you found that one tricky! All answers are correct in a sense, but option four is the most concise and detailed. The use of the word "contrastingly" sums up the desired effect of this quote on the reader. Relics connote to ideas of antiquity, whereas red high heels connote to sexuality and femininity. The two don't match up - and for good reason! Through contrasting language, Duffy conveys that she feels it was unnatural for her mother to have given up her freedom and sexuality when she got pregnant.
  • Question 3

"...clear as scent"

 

Why is this such an interesting quotation?  

 

There are two right answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Clear as scent" is odd because "clear" is associated with sight, not scent
"Clear as scent" suggests that Duffy sees her mother's past more clearly than her present
EDDIE SAYS
The quote "clear as scent" is an interesting one. You don't associate scents with clarity - normally what we see is described as "clear". It is possible that Duffy purposefully uses this metaphor to give a sense of nostalgia, as we strongly associate our past with certain scents.
  • Question 4

Give one example of a metaphor in the poem which presents the mother as glamorous.

 

Hint: there are only two metaphors which are associated with glamour. 

CORRECT ANSWER
Marilyn
Stamping stars
EDDIE SAYS
Remember, we are only looking at metaphors associated with glamour! "Marilyn" and "stamping stars" are the only two metaphors which Duffy uses to present the mother as glamorous.
  • Question 5

In stanza three, Duffy rhetorically asks her mother about the love-bites on her neck. 

 

Why do you think she adds the endearment "sweetheart"?

 

There are three correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Sweetheart" suggests that Duffy is doing a role-reversal by acting like a mother here
"Sweetheart" implies that Duffy is being playful and teasing with her mum
"Sweetheart" implies a close relationship between Duffy and her mother
EDDIE SAYS
The endearment "sweetheart" can be interpreted in different ways. It is informal - somewhat wistful and teasing, but implies a definite closeness between Duffy and her mother. It is interesting because this is the only endearment used in the poem, and really highlights the potential closeness between Duffy and her mother (at least as adults). It also shows Duffy as an adult who is able to see her mother as a friend, not just a mum. We can also see the endearment "sweetheart" as possessive. Perhaps Duffy is interrogating her mother here, or adopting the role of a mother? The rhetorical question does bring to mind the line in the previous stanza - "your Ma stands at the close". Maybe Duffy is chastising or telling off her mother in some way? You can present several arguments, as long as you're able to back them up with good evidence!
  • Question 6

What is the importance of describing the mother's high-heeled red shoes as relics?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The word "relics" implies that everything the shoes symbolise - freedom, sexuality and youth - are a thing of the past
EDDIE SAYS
The noun "relics" for a pair of red high-heeled shoes seems strange, doesn't it? "Relics" usually describes something old and no longer in use. In the context of this poem, the red high heels are a metaphor for the mother's youth and sexual freedom, which are also long abandoned and forgotten about now.
  • Question 7

Look at the specific linguistic use of "stamping stars".

 

 

What language device is Duffy using here? 

What kind of word classification is "stamping"?

What effect does "stamping stars" have? Is there any other quote which you can link this one to?

 

You only need three sentences for three marks.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
"Stamping stars" not only uses the active verb "stamping", which illustrates the mother doing something, well... active! It also suggests a forcefulness which contrasts and perhaps rejects the theme of femininity that has been building up in the poem. But more than this, the metaphor implicit in "stamping stars" suggests that the mother has glamour or movie-star appeal. This also links to Duffy calling her "Marilyn" (the movie star) in the first stanza, giving the poem a sense of cohesiveness.
  • Question 8

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

 

 Evaluate Duffy's use of sensory language here. 

 

Comment on the different senses presented by Duffy.

 

You only need two words here: the two senses which Duffy brings up.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The two senses which Duffy brings up here are sight ("Till I see you") and scent ("clear as scent").
  • Question 9

Evaluate the use of the word "Marilyn" at the end of the first stanza. Remember, keep it concise - three sentences should do the trick. 

 

1. What kind of word classification is "Marilyn"?

2. What effect does this word have?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A reference to "Marilyn" as a noun is important. It identifies your technical knowledge of word classifications. Similarly, the use of "Marilyn" as a metaphor for Duffy's mother's freedom, femininity or sexuality is also important. Marilyn Monroe was a sex icon, a film star and incredibly popular for being a prime example of a beautiful, youthful, sexual woman. Think about why Duffy never really uses her mum's name in the poem. What does this suggest about the mum's identity?
  • Question 10

"The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?"

 

 Evaluate Duffy's use of "loud, possessive yell".

 

Again, remember to identify what type of word classification Duffy uses.

 

Three sentences should do the trick.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you find that? Any indication that the words are adjectives and that they are Duffy's attitudes towards herself will get a mark! Indications that Duffy feels that she has impacted her mother negatively in some way by being born is a good piece of language evaluation. Well done, that's another activity completed!
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