The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Overview of Context for 'A Taste of Honey'

In this worksheet, students will revise the key contextual factors of 'A Taste of Honey' by Shelagh Delaney.

'Overview of Context for '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

 

What does this the picture make you think of?

 

In ‘A Taste of Honey’, Shelagh Delaney paints a completely contrasting picture to this one above.

 

Set and first produced in the 1950's, ‘A Taste of Honey’ does not portray the typical happy middle-class family. In fact, Delaney presents the complete opposite!

 

This activity will help you to explore the aspects of context that are important to the study of this play.

 

Remember that, in the exam, you will need to link all of the points you make about character or themes to this context.

 

We will look at:

 

-        What was happening in Britain at the time the play was set.

 

-        What was happening in the world of theatre when the play was produced.

 

-        How Delaney is seen as revolutionary in going against the grain in her subject matter.

 

-        How the play was received by its audiences.

 

Have a go at the following questions to delve deeper into these contextual factors.

Complete the following passage to revise a little bit about Shelagh Delaney’s early life.

 

1950's Britain was a post-war Britain. Click on the sentences below that show what Britain was like at the time Delaney was writing.

 

Britain was coming out of one of its toughest times and the economy was slowly being built up again

The welfare system was fully established now, offering benefits in illness and unemployment, giving people more security and less worry

Britain saw an increase in consumerism with people focusing on the acquisition of material goods

Britain was thriving in all areas, meaning that social equality was established

Housing shortages from the war time bombing meant that many were forced to live in flats, smaller houses or poor living conditions, even if they could afford better

A rigid class system still existed, which meant that, while many benefited from the economic growth of the time, many still struggled

Everyone in society was benefiting from a time of affluence

‘A Taste of Honey’, which was first produced in 1958, was considered to be a part of a new wave of theatre which was often called ‘kitchen sink drama’.

 

This term reflected how plays such as Delaney’s focused on ordinary working class family life and the real life struggles that came with this. Up until this point, drama had been focused on middle and upper class life.

 

What struggles do we see Jo and Helen dealing with which reflect the problems that many working class families in the 1950's would have been struggling with?

 

Match the quotations below to what they show about working class life.

 

Column A

Column B

Poverty
"Everything in it’s falling apart, it’s true, ...
Unemployment
"You’ve certainly never been affectionate with m...
Poor living conditions
"It’s all I can afford"
Strained relationships
"We’re supposed to be living off her immoral ear...

What does this image make you think of?

 

 

In the 1950's, there was much focus on the traditional family unit. This placed emphasis on a very traditional view of the role of women, which was that of the wife and mother, who stayed at home and looked after the house.

 

Delaney explores this gender stereotype throughout the play.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows society’s expectations of women at the time Delaney was writing.

Column A

Column B

Poverty
"Everything in it’s falling apart, it’s true, ...
Unemployment
"You’ve certainly never been affectionate with m...
Poor living conditions
"It’s all I can afford"
Strained relationships
"We’re supposed to be living off her immoral ear...

Not only can Delaney be seen as revolutionary in presenting the working class as central to her play, the way in which she focuses on women as her main characters also makes her a pioneer.

 

Previously, women were seen in plays in male dominated worlds, as secondary to men. The Women’s Liberation Movement did not come about until the 1970's, so Delaney can be seen as ahead of her time.

 

How does Delaney disrupt the ideals of the patriarchal world she lived in?

 

Click on all relevant answers below.

 

She presents a mother-daughter relationship as central to the play

She shows how Jo needs a man in order to look after her and be happy

She focuses on how Jo becomes pregnant and how her main role will be as a mother

She shows absent fathers, rather than a traditional family unit

The 1950's economic boom saw more teenagers earning more, giving them more independence from their parents. This meant that the 1950's was a time of teenage rebellion and saw a generational shift in thinking and lifestyle, which was different to the older generation before.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows this generational shift in attitude in Jo.

She presents a mother-daughter relationship as central to the play

She shows how Jo needs a man in order to look after her and be happy

She focuses on how Jo becomes pregnant and how her main role will be as a mother

She shows absent fathers, rather than a traditional family unit

As well as rigid gender roles, society in the 1950's had very close-minded views on mixed race relationships.

 

Match the quotations below to the comment Delaney is making about mixed race relationships in the 1950's.

Column A

Column B

"You're the first girl I've met who really didn't ...
Delaney presents Jo as the younger generation in t...
"Can you see me wheeling a pram with a ....Oh my G...
Helen's reaction to Jo telling her that her baby's...
"The colour's wrong. (Suddenly and violently fling...
Although Jo shows that she is more open-minded in ...

During the 1950's, being homosexual was still illegal - it wasn't until 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalised.

 

Delaney hints that Geof is gay in 'A Taste of Honey' and the reaction to his character is key in her representation of the prejudice surrounding homosexuality in the 1950's.

 

Match the quotations below to the character speaking in order to understand the different attitudes to homosexuality in the play.

 

Column A

Column B

"You're not to insult Geoffrey"
Jo
"Little fruitcake parcel"
Helen
"Bloody little pansy"
Peter

The 1950's came to be known as an 'angry' period in literature. These writers were angry and skeptical about the elite society that was presented in the literature of the 30's and 40's.

 

The term 'Angry Young Men' was used to describe working class and lower-middle class writers who chose to represent characters from their own worlds, rather than the typical middle and upper class characters seen in plays before this period.

 

Delaney followed shortly after with 'A Taste of Honey' and was sometimes labeled an 'Angry Young Woman' - she went one step further and gave a voice to women, previously marginalised in the works of the 'Angry Young Men.'

 

Jo is the revolutionary character in the play, a working class woman who breaks the 1950's societal expectations in many different ways.

 

Which five words in the stage directions at the end of the play, suggest hope that Jo will be able live an independent life and bring her baby up successfully as a working single mother? 

To revise the key contextual features we have explored, match the following quotations to the context feature they relate to.

Column A

Column B

Working class living conditions
"Motherhood is supposed to come natural to women"
Mixed race relationships
"Everything in it's falling apart, it's true, and ...
Homosexuality
"Jo: Did your ancestors come from Africa? Boy: No ...
Women's role as mothers
"I can work for the baby myself"
Independence of younger generation
"I thought you could find yourself something more ...
  • Question 1

Complete the following passage to revise a little bit about Shelagh Delaney’s early life.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
It is important to think about how a writer’s life has influenced their writing. We can see that Delaney’s experience growing up in a working class family is reflected in the play and we also see her comment on the 1950's education system. Secondary education became free in the 40's, but there was still a rigid class structure which meant that, although more working class children were becoming educated, they still struggled to achieve good jobs. In your revision, try to think about how class and education are important in the play.
  • Question 2

1950's Britain was a post-war Britain. Click on the sentences below that show what Britain was like at the time Delaney was writing.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Britain was coming out of one of its toughest times and the economy was slowly being built up again
The welfare system was fully established now, offering benefits in illness and unemployment, giving people more security and less worry
Britain saw an increase in consumerism with people focusing on the acquisition of material goods
Housing shortages from the war time bombing meant that many were forced to live in flats, smaller houses or poor living conditions, even if they could afford better
A rigid class system still existed, which meant that, while many benefited from the economic growth of the time, many still struggled
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how, although the economy grew after the war and many enjoyed the benefits of this, many people were still struggling. Delaney was interested in representing these people; the working class people that were forgotten in this period of affluence. The people that were still struggling to survive.
  • Question 3

‘A Taste of Honey’, which was first produced in 1958, was considered to be a part of a new wave of theatre which was often called ‘kitchen sink drama’.

 

This term reflected how plays such as Delaney’s focused on ordinary working class family life and the real life struggles that came with this. Up until this point, drama had been focused on middle and upper class life.

 

What struggles do we see Jo and Helen dealing with which reflect the problems that many working class families in the 1950's would have been struggling with?

 

Match the quotations below to what they show about working class life.

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Poverty
"It’s all I can afford"
Unemployment
"We’re supposed to be living of...
Poor living conditions
"Everything in it’s falling apa...
Strained relationships
"You’ve certainly never been af...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? A lot is revealed about Jo and Helen’s life in the opening scene. Delaney paints a picture of a run down, dirty flat and reveals that Helen doesn't work, but suggests she earns money from the men she has relationships with. The mother and daughter relationship lacks traditional love and affection and instead appears to be one involving neglect and rejection. Delaney’s image of the working class struggle is vividly portrayed here.
  • Question 4

What does this image make you think of?

 

 

In the 1950's, there was much focus on the traditional family unit. This placed emphasis on a very traditional view of the role of women, which was that of the wife and mother, who stayed at home and looked after the house.

 

Delaney explores this gender stereotype throughout the play.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows society’s expectations of women at the time Delaney was writing.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
This is an important quotation, because it shows the link between being a woman in the 1950's and the perceived biological purpose as a mother. It is very much what society expected of women at the time. Indeed even Geof comments that "Motherhood is supposed to come natural to women", which epitomises societal expectations in the 1950's.
  • Question 5

Not only can Delaney be seen as revolutionary in presenting the working class as central to her play, the way in which she focuses on women as her main characters also makes her a pioneer.

 

Previously, women were seen in plays in male dominated worlds, as secondary to men. The Women’s Liberation Movement did not come about until the 1970's, so Delaney can be seen as ahead of her time.

 

How does Delaney disrupt the ideals of the patriarchal world she lived in?

 

Click on all relevant answers below.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
She presents a mother-daughter relationship as central to the play
She shows absent fathers, rather than a traditional family unit
EDDIE SAYS
While Delaney shows Helen and Jo caught up to some extent in the limitations of being a woman in the 1950's, she begins to show the characters breaking free of their social expectations. Notice also how the men in the play really only serve the purpose of drawing light on the relationship between Helen and Jo. Here Delaney completely subverts the gender stereotypes, because the men in the play are mostly absent fathers or abusive/drunk. The only male shown as likeable is Geof and there are hints that he's gay, which challenges the idea of the stereotypical male figure even more!
  • Question 6

The 1950's economic boom saw more teenagers earning more, giving them more independence from their parents. This meant that the 1950's was a time of teenage rebellion and saw a generational shift in thinking and lifestyle, which was different to the older generation before.

 

Complete the quotation below that shows this generational shift in attitude in Jo.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how from very early on in the play, Jo talks about getting her own job, her own place and becoming independent from her mother. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to "work for the baby myself". This determination to look after her baby and work certainly breaks the traditional 1950's role of the stay at home wife and mother. Delaney shows how the younger generation are the revolution makers, who can change the current status quo and strive for equality between men and women.
  • Question 7

As well as rigid gender roles, society in the 1950's had very close-minded views on mixed race relationships.

 

Match the quotations below to the comment Delaney is making about mixed race relationships in the 1950's.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"You're the first girl I've met w...
Delaney presents Jo as the younge...
"Can you see me wheeling a pram w...
Helen's reaction to Jo telling he...
"The colour's wrong. (Suddenly an...
Although Jo shows that she is mor...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Delaney's juxtaposition of the different views of the younger and older generation is important here. Mixed race relationships would have been criticised and Helen's worry about her reputation is representative of the norm in society at the time. Delaney shows us that it's the more open-minded younger generation who were able to pave a way for more acceptance of mixed race relationships. Indeed the impending birth of the baby is symbolic in itself as a celebration of different races coming together in harmony.
  • Question 8

During the 1950's, being homosexual was still illegal - it wasn't until 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalised.

 

Delaney hints that Geof is gay in 'A Taste of Honey' and the reaction to his character is key in her representation of the prejudice surrounding homosexuality in the 1950's.

 

Match the quotations below to the character speaking in order to understand the different attitudes to homosexuality in the play.

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"You're not to insult Geoffrey"
Jo
"Little fruitcake parcel"
Peter
"Bloody little pansy"
Helen
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how once again there's a distinct difference between the views of the different generations in the play. Delaney presents Helen and Peter as extremely close-minded and judgemental, and their derogatory insults show how homosexuality received such abuse in the 1950's. Jo's relationship with Geof shows him to be a caring and responsible man and, ironically, the only person she can rely on in the play. Geof contrasts the other male characters in the play who are absent fathers or abusive drunks, which allows Delaney to comment on the traditional view of a man and challenge the assumptions around this.
  • Question 9

The 1950's came to be known as an 'angry' period in literature. These writers were angry and skeptical about the elite society that was presented in the literature of the 30's and 40's.

 

The term 'Angry Young Men' was used to describe working class and lower-middle class writers who chose to represent characters from their own worlds, rather than the typical middle and upper class characters seen in plays before this period.

 

Delaney followed shortly after with 'A Taste of Honey' and was sometimes labeled an 'Angry Young Woman' - she went one step further and gave a voice to women, previously marginalised in the works of the 'Angry Young Men.'

 

Jo is the revolutionary character in the play, a working class woman who breaks the 1950's societal expectations in many different ways.

 

Which five words in the stage directions at the end of the play, suggest hope that Jo will be able live an independent life and bring her baby up successfully as a working single mother? 

CORRECT ANSWER
smiling a little to herself
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! Delaney's ending is very ambiguous. We aren't sure if Helen or Geof will come back. However, when the stage direction focuses on Jo's smile, we do get a sense of Jo's strength in this situation. Delaney leaves her audience with the idea that perhaps it is possible for a young woman like Jo to have a mixed race baby and bring this baby up, working for it herself. This interpretation completely challenges the restrictions placed on women during the 1950's and is what makes Delaney's work so pioneering.
  • Question 10

To revise the key contextual features we have explored, match the following quotations to the context feature they relate to.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Working class living conditions
"Everything in it's falling apart...
Mixed race relationships
"Jo: Did your ancestors come from...
Homosexuality
"I thought you could find yoursel...
Women's role as mothers
"Motherhood is supposed to come n...
Independence of younger generatio...
"I can work for the baby myself"
EDDIE SAYS
As you reread the play, think about what you've learnt about what life was like at the time Delaney was writing and how this is reflected in 'A Taste of Honey.' In the exam, you'll need to use this contextual knowledge and relate the points you make about characters or themes back to this context. Remember that Delaney was seen as revolutionary in her subject matter and indeed in the alternative she suggests to the norm.
---- 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.