A Taste of Honey (play) - Analysing the extract

Higher tier question

Look closely at the way Jo speaks and behaves in this extract. What does it reveal to the audience about her feelings at this point in the play?

Foundation tier question

What do you think of Jo’s behaviour and the way she speaks in this extract? Remember you must give reasons for what you write and you must also support your answer with words and phrases from the text.

Your key priority should be to analyse and comment on the language Shelagh Delaney has used in this extract only.

Look once again at the extract below and pay particular attention to the highlighted points. Think about how they help the audience have a better understanding of the way Jo feels and why she behaves as she does in this extract from the play.

The extract

Jo
God! (1) It’s hot.
Geof
I know it’s hot.
Jo
I’m so (2) restless.
Geof
Oh, stop prowling about.
Jo
This place (3) stinks. [Goes over to the door. Children are heard singing in the street.] That river, it’s the colour of lead. Look at that washing, it’s dirty, and look at those (4) filthy children.
Geof
It’s not their fault.
Jo
It’s their (5) parents’ fault. There’s a little boy over there and his hair, honestly, it’s walking away. And his ears. Oh! He’s a real mess! He never goes to school. He just sits on that front doorstep all day. I think he’s a bit (6) deficient.
[The children’s voices die away. A tugboat hoots.]
His mother ought not to be allowed.
Geof
Who?
Jo
His mother. Think of all the (7) harm she does, having children.
Geof
Sit down and read a book, Jo.
Jo
I can’t.
Geof
Be quiet then. You’re getting on my nerves. [Suddenly she yells and whirls across the room.]
Jo
(8) Whee! Come on rain. Come on storm. It kicked me, Geof. It kicked me!
Geof
What?
Jo
(9) It kicked me. [Geof runs to her and puts his head on her belly.]
Geof
Will it do it again?
Jo
It shows it’s alive anyway. Come on, baby, let’s see what big sister’s making for us.
Geof
Put it down.
Jo
What a pretty little dress.
Geof
It’s got to wear something. You can’t just wrap it up in a bundle of newspaper.
Jo
And dump it on a doorstep. How did Geoffrey find out the measurements?
Geof
Babies are born to the same size more or less.
Jo
Oh, no, they’re not. Some are thin scrappy things and others are huge and covered in rolls of fat.
Geof
Shut up, Jo, it sounds revolting.
Jo
They are (10) revolting. I hate babies.
  • When Jo says she is (1) hot the audience can see that she is not in a very good mood and that at this moment in time, nothing will make her happy. Her pregnancy is making her uncomfortable and she often takes this out on Geof, who tries to calm Jo as he only wants what is best for her.
  • The word (2) restless suggests once again that Jo is uncomfortable and unable to settle down and sit still. Even Geof, who is usually so calm, begins to get annoyed and tells Jo to stop prowling about. Jo’s restless state is more than likely a result of her uncertainty about her future and her ambiguous feelings towards being a mother.
  • The word (3) stinks once again highlights Jo’s dissatisfaction with her life. This time her anger is aimed at the flat and the industrial area in which it is situated. The audience is reminded of the smell that will linger in the area and how this underlines the poverty that is suffered by many of the working class people who live nearby.
  • Jo focuses in particular on the (4) filthy children who play outside. She is consumed with thoughts of childhood, no doubt because she will soon be bringing her own child into the world. Jo does not want her child to suffer and she is also aware of the difficult childhood she herself had.
  • The phrase (5) Parents’ fault is Jo’s way of reinforcing the idea that the children are not to blame for their dirty appearance. As Jo points out, it is the fault of their parents. Jo is remembering her own poor childhood and how Helen, who is a selfish mother, often n eglected her.
  • When commenting on the child who may be a bit (6) deficient Jo is worrying about her own baby. After discovering her own father was mentally unstable, Jo worries that her baby will be born the same way.
  • Once again, when Jo uses the word (7) harm she is referring to mothers who have children without taking the time and effort to look after them properly. No doubt Jo is thinking of her own mother Helen when she says this.
  • The word (8) whee shows how quickly Jo’s mood can change. Previously in this scene she has seemed very gloomy but when she feels her baby kicking, she grows excited and dances around the room.
  • When Jo shouts out, (9) It kicked me her excitement towards the baby is emphasised further, suggesting to the audience that Jo has now come to terms with her pregnancy and that she is happy about it.
  • However, the phrase, (10) ... revolting. I hate babies seems once again to suggest otherwise. Jo’s mood has quickly changed. She is now no longer excited about having a baby. Instead, she is claiming to hate babies and insisting that she finds them revolting. This will puzzle the audience as she had previously seemed so happy to feel the baby kick her.