My Mother Said I Never Should - Form, Structure and Language

Authors Avatar

Helen Fletcher

My Mother Said I Never Should – Form, Structure and Language

Unlike Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the scenes in Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should are not in chronological order. Keatley’s play is about four generations of women; by juxtaposing different time periods, it allows a contrast of the lives these women led. A Doll’s House is set over three days, with the main focus on the plot and characters. Mother Said I Never Should replaces plot with structure; the storyline of the play is not what makes it interesting.

        It opens in the wasteground, described by Keatley as “a magic place where things can happen”. By having a place where all four characters can communicate without the restrictions of their own respective societies, we see their real personalities emerge. The child scenes are carefully integrated at different stages within the play, as links from one time period to another. In the second child scene Rosie explains that “you have to get married” before you have children; it then cuts to Margaret as an adult, trying to cope with the news that Jackie has had pre-marital sex. Keatley uses these links in the structure to reveal things about the characters that they would not usually reveal as adults. Themes such as marriage are introduced in the child scenes, and then are explored in the adult. Another effect that the wasteground scenes have on the play is a change in energy. Few of the adult scenes are fast-paced or particularly dramatic, and so the inclusion of these scenes can raise the energy when it is needed. This emotional release from the darker elements of the adult scenes is known as catharsis, which is an important and deliberate function of the child scenes.

My Mother Said I Never Should revolves around ordinary events. It doesn’t have an unrealistic or dramatic storyline; moments like Rosie’s birth are not even included. This element of realism makes the play more effective, and the characters more believable. The women are always hanging up washing or potting plants while discussing the themes of the play. Act one reveals the family secrets; Jackie’s teenage pregnancy and Margaret’s miscarriage. We see most of the reasons why the characters behave the way they do, and how other characters treat them. Act two, the only time where there is no change of time periods, would not have the same effect without the background information given in Act one. This is where the main issues are discussed, and where secrets are revealed. Jackie discovers that Doris was illegitimate, and Rosie comes close to finding out who her biological mother is. We are also introduced to objects and moments that will have more significance in Act three. Act three itself shows us the future the characters will or won’t have, and the effect that the secrets have on them. Margaret grows jealous of Jackie and Rosie’s relationship “Those are my years” and Rosie discovers the truth “I used to hate you, only I never knew why.” Even though the events aren’t in chronological order, they’re not randomly put together.

Join now!

Keatley uses the structure to create suspense by withholding information. When Margaret takes baby Rosie away from Jackie, we have to wait three scenes before we see how that element of the plot develops. By mixing the time periods up, the audience can see how Jackie and Rosie behave together both before and after Rosie’s birth mother is revealed.  The structure also creates irony. We see all three mothers doubting whether they want to have children:

Doris What makes you think I wanted children?

Jackie, although reluctantly, gives Rosie away, and rejects the role of a mother. Margaret also had ...

This is a preview of the whole essay