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A comparison of the 20th and 19th century short stories by Penelope lively, Rohl Dahl and M.R. James

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A comparison of the 20th and 19th century short stories by Penelope lively, Rohl Dahl and M.R. James All 3 of the short stories carry a similar main theme, a theme which derives from the classic tale of Hansel and Grethal by the Brothers Grimm. A theme of disregard, procurement of the nieve and coincidentally, murder. The first of these stories is "The darkness out there" by Penelope lively. This story doesn't follow the theme as strictly as the others but it is loosely based upon it. The time set is not at first overly apparent. But it soon becomes clear that it was set not long after world war two, late 40's early 50's. Probably in Kent or some other country side place. The narrative is a story of generosity, which is shattered by evil. The goodness is symbolised by the children and the evil by the old woman. The crime is one of murder and the turning point is when the boy realises how evil the old woman is. In the next story, "the lost hearts" by M R James, the time set is a lot earlier around the time of 1811. ...read more.


The use of English is, in the main, standard and the colloquial language of the time would be considered as standard to a younger generation. When signing the guest book, Billy realises that something foal was afoot. He recognises seeing both the names in the paper under a murder column, this is the turning point. At the end of the story, we are made to believe that he is also poisoned, but this is not confirmed by the cliff-hanger ending. "The darkness out there" and "the landlady" are both set in the 20th century, This is made clear in "the darkness out there" by many lines, the main giveaway being "a German plane came down there in the war," I am sure that we are all aware that German planes would not have came down in England, in the 19th century. And the time set is proven in "the landlady" by the line "probably lost a son in the war". This point of proof could be arguable, there have been wars in both centauries which she could have lost her son in, but only the wars in the 20th century which stated compulsory enrolment. ...read more.


"The darkness out there" would be a murder/ thriller story. "The landlady" would defiantly be a 20th century fairytale. And "the lost hearts" would be more difficult to determine. It is a style of murder, fairytale and horror, with a hint of science fiction. I have touched on the archaic language used by James in a previous paragraph. He uses verbs and adjectives that would not be used so much today such as "congruous", "acquaintance" and "afore". Some of the language used in the other stories could also be described as now archaic. Words like "spinney" and "lodgings". I feel that the only reason Liveleys and Dahls use of description appears quite simple compared to that of James, is because it uses adjectives we are far more familiar with such as "fairly", " wide", "pretty" and "plump". Rather than adjectives such as "purer" and "gently beating". As I have previously stated, all 3 stories carry a general theme of procurement, a theme which derives from the Grimms fairytale "Hanzel und Grethel". It is clear in each story who plays the role of the "wicked witch" and who plays that of the innocent children. In "the darkness out there," "old Mrs Rutter" plays thw witch character whilst the children play the innocent victims of procurement. ...read more.

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