A-level English/Wise Children/Past Paper Questions

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Past Paper Questions on Wise Children (AQA)[edit]

Short Questions[edit]

  • Examine the ways Carter uses ideas about time, youth and age in the novel.
  • Explore Carter's use of Shakespeare in the novel
  • What Purpose Does Peregrine serve In The Novel?
  • Who Do You Consider To Be Wise Children?.
  • Consider the presentation and importance of Shakespeare in 'Wise Children.
  • Consider the importance of Melchior and the way in which Carter presents this character.
  • Explore the way Carter uses the theme of fathers and daughters in the novel.
  • How appropriate do you find this extract as the opening of the novel? You should consider the subject matter and style.
  • Examine the ways Carter presents the theme of what of what Dora calls the “wrong side of the tracks”.
  • Consider the importance and presentation of Perry in the novel.
  • Examine Carter’s use of doubles in the novel.
  • Examine how Carter presents parents and children in the novel
  • Explore the ways in which the theme of illusion is presented in Wise Children

Longer, Quotation-Based Questions[edit]

  • Using the following extract as a starting point, consider the ways Carter presents the characters of Lady Atalanta, Imogen and Saskia.

All in good time I shall reveal to you how it has come to pass that we inherited, in her dotage and, come to that, in ours, the first wife of our illegitimate father. Suffice to say that nobody else would have her. Least of all her own two daughters. Bloody cows. 'The lovely Hazard girls', they used to call them. Huh. Lovely is as lovely does; if they looked like what they behave like, they'd frighten little children. We've been storing Wheelchair in the basement for well-nigh thirty years. We've got quite attached to her. Earlier on, Nora used to take her out shopping, give her some fresh air and that, until she nearly starts a riot, she says to the bloke at the salad stall: 'Have you got anything in the shape of a cucumber, my good fellow?' After that, we had to keep her home for her own sake. Sometimes she goes on a bit, on and on, on and on and bloody on, in fact, worrying away at how Melchior took the best years of her life then deserted her for a Hollywood harlot - his Number Two bride - and how the 'lovely Hazard girls' did her out of all her money and how she fell downstairs and can never walk again and on and on and on and on until you want to throw a blanket over her, like you do to shut up a parrot. But there's not a scrap of harm in her and, besides, we owe her one from way back.


  • Using the following extract as a starting point, consider Carter's presentation of family conflicts and disappointments in the novel.

He watched expectantly as they tore off the wrappings. The boxes were of metal, it turned out, with little holes drilled in the top. Curiouser and curiouser. Imogen got hers open first, peered in, then gave a little scream and dropped it. Saskia looked at hers and said: 'Good God!' Inside each box was a little nest of leaves and, inside the nest, a caterpillar. 'Named after you,' said Peregrine. 'Saskia Hazard. Imogen Hazard. Two of the most beautiful butterflies in all the rainforest. You'll go down in all the textbooks. As long as people love butterflies, your names will be on their lips, you'll have a kind of beautiful eternity. They are rare species, just like you both.' Saskia and Imogen stared blankly at their boxes. No doubt they'd hoped for a little oil well each. 'Is that all?' said Imogen. She poked the caterpillar with her fork. It did not stir. 'I think mine's dead,' she said. Saskia snapped her box shut and dropped it on the table. 'Thanks a lot,' she said, with heavy irony.


  • How typical is this extract of Dora's reaction to her experiences throughout the novel?

And my heart stood still, I was seventeen again, I was a virgin powdering my nose with beating heart, for there was lilac, lilac everywhere. In bowls in jars in cornucopias. White lilac, the evening's floral theme. I was all misty because of the smell of lilac as we processed in the long line towards where our father was receiving in an alcove, seated on a sort of throne. He wasn’t wearing a monkey suit or tails unlike most of his gusts, but had on a rather majestic and heavily embroidered purple caftan. I thought, colostomy; but that caftan made a lovely contrast to his longish, pewter coloured hair, still thick and heavy. There were rings on his fingers, like a king, or a pope, and a big gold medallion around his neck. He looked regal but festive. My heart gave a thump and the beat started to speed up. We waited patiently in line to wish him 'Happy birthday', standing in line between a theatrical knight and a TV presenter who babbled insanities at one another across us which pissed us off, but we decided to tolerate the invisibility of old ladies-note that, even dressed up like four penny ham-bones, our age and gender still rendered us invisible-because it was special occasion, although as a general rule, we debate invisibility hotly. I snatched at the champagne a couple of times as it waltzed past I was bloody nervous, I can tell you.


  • Using the following extract as a starting point, consider the ways in which Carter uses Grandma Chance and Kitty in the novel.

Nine Months later, her heart gave out when we were born. Apart from that I don't know anything about her. We don't even know what she looked like, there isn't a picture. She was called Kitty, like a little stray cat. Fatherless, motherless. Perhaps Mrs. Chance's house was even a haven to her, in spite of the stairs - she must have run up and down the stairs twenty times a day, thirty times a day. And the grates to be leaded, the front steps to be scoured. Not that Mrs Chance was what the French called exigeante. She didn’t run the fanciest boarding house in Brixton, it barely managed to cling to respectability by the skin of its teeth, and you could have said the same of her. There were Boston ferns, in green glazed pots, on stands, and Turkey rugs, but the whole place never looked plausible. It looked like the staged set of a theatrical boarding house, as if Grandma had done it up to suit a role she’d chosen on purpose. She was a mystery was Mrs. Chance.


  • The following is the ending of Wise Children. How appropriate do you find it as the conclusion to the novel?

The window on the second-floor front window of 41 Bard Road went up, a head came out. Dreadlocks. That Rastafarian. ‘You two, again,’ he said. ‘Have a Heart!’ we said. ‘We’ve got something to celebrate, tonight!’ ‘Well, you just watch it, in case a squad car comes by,’ he said. ‘Drunk in charge of a baby carriage at your age.’ We’d got so many songs to sing to our babies, all the old songs, that we didn’t pay him any attention. ‘Gee, we’d like to see you looking swell, babies!’ and the Hazard theme song, ‘Is You Is or Is You Ain’t’. Then there were songs from the show that nobody else remembers. ‘2b or not 2b’, ‘Hey nonny bloody no’, ‘Mistress Mine’, and Broadway tunes and paper moons, and lilacs in the spring, again. We went on dancing and singing. ‘Diamond bracelets Woolworths doesn’t sell.’ Besides it was our birthday wasn’t it, we’d got to sing the silly song about Charlie Chaplin and his comedy boots all the kinds were singing and dancing in the street the day we were born. There was singing and dancing all along Bard Road that day and we’ll go on singing and dancing until we drop in our tracks, won’t we kids? What a joy it is to dance and sing.


  • The following extract is taken from the novel after the fire in Melchior’s house when he believes his father’s paper crown is lost. Using the passage as a starting point, explore how the writer uses the idea of a ‘flimsy bit of make-believe’ through the novel.

‘My crown, my foolish crown, my paper crown of a king of shreds and patches,’ he lamented. ‘The crown my father wore as Lear – to have survived so many deaths, so much heartbreak, so many travels…and now, gone up in smoke! Oh, my dear girl, we mummers are such simple folk . . . superstitious as little children. The fire was welcome to take everything, the frills and furbelows, the toys and the gewgaws, the oil paintings, the cloisonné, the Elizabethan oak . . . . but, oh, my crown! That cardboard crown, with the gold paint peeling off. Do you know, can you guess, my dear, how much it meant to me? More than wealth, or fame, or women, or children . . .’ I’d better believe that, what he said about children. I was amazed to see him so much moved, and on account of what? A flimsy piece of make-believe. A nothing. ‘What shall I do without my crown? Othello’s occupation gone!’


  • Remind yourself of the following extract which describes the set of the film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Using the extract below as a starting point, consider the importance of the film-making episode in the novel.

The wood near Athens covered an entire stage and was so thickly art-directed it came up all black in the rushes, couldn’t see a thing, so they spayed it in parts with silver paint to lighten it up. The concept of this wood was scaled down to fit the size of fairy folk, so it was all twice as large as life. Larger. Daisies as big as your head and as white as spook, foxgloves as tall as the tower of Pisa that chimed like bells if shook. Gnarled, fissured tree-trunks; sprays of enormous leaves – oak, ash, thorn, like parasols, or gilder planes, or awnings. Bindweed in streamers and conkers, deposited at intervals in heaps on the ground. Yes, conkers. All spikes. And rolling around at random underfoot, or stuck on buds, or hanging in mid-air as if they’d just rolled off a wild rose or out of a cowslip, imitation dewdrops, that is, big faux pearls, suspended on threads. And clockwork birds as well – thrushes finches, sparrows, larks – that lifted up their wings and lowered their heads and sang out soprano, mezzo, contralto, joining in the fairy songs.


  • Using the following extract as a starting point, consider how Carter presents Melchoir in the novel.

And my heart stood still, I was seventeen again, I was a virgin powdering my nose with beating heart, for there was lilac, lilac everywhere. In bowls in jars in cornucopias. White lilac, the evening's floral theme. I was all misty because of the smell of lilac as we processed in the long line towards where our father was receiving in an alcove, seated on a sort of throne. He wasn’t wearing a monkey suit or tails unlike most of his gusts, but had on a rather majestic and heavily embroidered purple caftan. I thought, colostomy; but that caftan made a lovely contrast to his longish, pewter coloured hair, still thick and heavy. There were rings on his fingers, like a king, or a pope, and a big gold medallion around his neck. He looked regal but festive. My heart gave a thump and the beat started to speed up.