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Identify Key Themes in 'Before You Were Mine'

In this worksheet, students will be able to practise their understanding of key themes in 'Before You Were Mine'.

'Identify Key Themes 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

Want to revise some key themes in 'Before You Were Mine'?

 

You've come to the right place!

 

Thought bubble

 

To jog your memory, let's recap the actual content of the poem! 'Before You Were Mine' is about a daughter, Carol Ann Duffy, imagining her mother's life before she had her. There's a few interesting themes within this poem for you to go over. It's a juicy one!

 

The set is quite straightforward - all you need to do identify the theme that you think is being presented in the section of the poem the question is referring to.

 

 

It'll help if you are writing down whatever new or important information you learn along the way! 

Tick one key theme in the poem.

 

Motherhood

Marriage

Supernatural

Happiness

Fill in the blanks in this sentence by choosing one of these themes:

Sexuality

Motherhood

Death

Femininity

Motherhood

Marriage

Supernatural

Happiness

Which of these quotes do you think best shows the theme of love in the poem?

 

 

"I'm not here yet"

"Before you were mine"

"Whose small bites on your neck?"

"I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello..."

Choose a theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza one.

 

There are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

Sexuality

The past

Childhood

Femininity

Possessiveness

 

Choose a theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza two.

 

Again, there are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Motherhood

Sexuality

Childhood

Rebelliousness

Death

Friendship

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

Motherhood

Sexuality

Guilt

Possessiveness

Religion

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme.

 

 

Column A

Column B

"My loud, possessive yell"
gender/femininity
"Your polka-dot dress"
past/present
"I'm not here yet"
possessiveness
"Sparkle and waltz and laugh"
freedom

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza three.

 

Like in previous questions, there are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Freedom

Sexuality

Possessiveness

Danger

Past/present

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza four.

 

There are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Motherhood​

Love

Death

Sexuality

Freedom

Possessiveness

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

  • Question 1

Tick one key theme in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Motherhood
EDDIE SAYS
Good work if you chose motherhood - it is a really important theme in this poem!
  • Question 2

Fill in the blanks in this sentence by choosing one of these themes:

Sexuality

Motherhood

Death

Femininity

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The reference to Marilyn Monroe (shown by the abruptness of the caesura) strongly reinforces the themes of femininity and sexuality. Marilyn Monroe was a sex icon and considered the epitome of femininity.
  • Question 3

Which of these quotes do you think best shows the theme of love in the poem?

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello..."
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! The theme of love is presented in different ways, but if you were to pick one out of the four quotes, option four (from the last stanza) really shows the connection between Duffy and her mother. Duffy wants her mum to be that independent, sexual and carefree girl of the past. So, Duffy is showing a kind of selfless love for her mother by wanting her to be free to "sparkle", "waltz" and "laugh".
  • Question 4

Choose a theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza one.

 

There are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

Sexuality

The past

Childhood

Femininity

Possessiveness

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Sexuality
The past
Femininity
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza one kicks off the poem by presenting themes of sexuality and femininity (Marilyn, the polka-dot dress, reference to the mother's legs) and the past ("I'm ten years away"). Remember, we are just looking at stanza one here! Don't get caught out.
  • Question 5

Choose a theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza two.

 

Again, there are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Motherhood

Sexuality

Childhood

Rebelliousness

Death

Friendship

CORRECT ANSWER
Motherhood
Sexuality
Rebelliousness
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza two continues the focus on sexuality. Think about what can be inferred from the phrase "right walk home", Duffy is seemingly talking about her mother's male suitors! We also have the theme of motherhood, not just at the beginning with "I'm not here yet" (suggesting that Duffy will change her mother's life by making her a mother and taking her away from her freedom), but also in the reference to "your Ma". The theme of rebelliousness is quite explicit - "hiding for the late one" really emphasises the mother's rule-breaking spirit.
  • Question 6

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Religion
EDDIE SAYS
What a tricky question! Sorry! But it's important to identity the difference between a theme and a reference. While the first four options are referenced more than once, making them themes implicit in the poem, religion is only mentioned once, as Duffy's mum is dancing with her on the way home from Mass. So religion is referenced as an interesting contrast to Duffy's representations of sexuality and conventionality, but it isn't a theme which is important enough to really be classed as a recurring idea.
  • Question 7

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"My loud, possessive yell"
possessiveness
"Your polka-dot dress"
gender/femininity
"I'm not here yet"
past/present
"Sparkle and waltz and laugh"
freedom
EDDIE SAYS
How did you find that? In learning to link certain quotes to certain themes, you will be able to revise both the details and an overview of the poem. It also helps with analysis, where you take a wide theme and narrow it down into a small quote. Have fun with it and be creative in your analysis and interpretation of what you think Duffy is trying to present!
  • Question 8

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza three.

 

Like in previous questions, there are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Freedom

Sexuality

Possessiveness

Danger

Past/present

CORRECT ANSWER
Sexuality
Past and present
Possessiveness
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza three displays sexuality in two ways. First, we have the love-bite reference with the cheekily posed question, which suggests that Duffy's mother was youthful and enjoyed her sexuality. Secondly, there's a more subtle reference to sexuality in the "high-heeled red shoes". Heels are a typical symbol of sexuality and femininity. We also have a reference to the past and present in the stanza. "The decade ahead" indicates the past/present quite well - Duffy is speaking from the perspective of the present about the past. Likewise, "I remember" is a direct reference to Duffy's past, and the entire imagery of the "ghost" approaching Duffy ("clattering towards me") gives the sense of the past meeting the present. Possessiveness is quite explicit in the poem. Duffy calls herself "loud and possessive". However, notice the last line where Duffy seems to be questioning her mother, "whose small bites...?" One could argue that there is an element of possessiveness here - a sort of interrogation, layered beneath the endearment "sweetheart" as if to smooth it all over.
  • Question 9

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza four.

 

There are three potential correct answers, but please pick only one.

 

Motherhood​

Love

Death

Sexuality

Freedom

Possessiveness

CORRECT ANSWER
Motherhood
Love
Freedom
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza four, the last stanza, really cements the themes at the heart of the poem. The three key themes - motherhood, love and freedom - are displayed clearly for the reader here. Motherhood, in reference to Duffy's mother "teaching" her "steps on the way home". We can infer that Duffy loves her mother from the language choices. Duffy writes that she "wanted the bold girl", even as she watched her mother dance on the "wrong pavement". We can imagine that Duffy wants her mother to be as happy as she was in the past. Freedom is also quite explicit in this last stanza. Duffy really emphasises that her mother has less freedom than before, when she writes that she is dancing on the "wrong pavement", giving the sense that the mother is somewhere she shouldn't be.
  • Question 10

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Past and present
Guilt
Freedom
Motherhood
Sexuality
Gender
Independence
Love
Possessiveness
Rebelliousness
EDDIE SAYS
Great effort! You can choose a theme that isn't listed here, as long as you can find at least two quotes to back up your choice. If you can't, then it's probably not a theme, but a one time REFERENCE. The key themes are the ones written above, but you can also pick: - Glamour - Bitterness - Change - Control
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