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Examine how Penelope Lively explores a) The Folly of Harbouring Pre-Conceptions, and b) The Transition from a state of Innocence to one of Experience in this Story.

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Examine how Penelope Lively explores a) The Folly of Harbouring Pre-Conceptions, and b) The Transition from a state of Innocence to one of Experience in this Story. "The Darkness out There", by Penelope Lively is a short story about Sandra, a young girl, growing up. At first she is young and innocent, and thinks the world is separated into categories where people's appearances determine what kind of people they are. As the story progresses, we see the transition from her innocence to her allowing herself to face reality, where an experience has an effect on her life, helping her to grow up and leave her stereotypical behaviour and child-like views behind. At the beginning of the story we are met with a lively tone, as Sandra is described as walking through flowers, giving us a pleasant image as she is walking towards a cottage to visit an old lady, Mrs Rutter. This is our first encounter with a stereotypical image, as we are told, "She's a dear old thing, all on her own, of course. A wonky leg after her op." This makes us imagine a fragile, sweet old lady, which is how Lively wants us to see her, as this is how Sandra imagines her. The journey, which is described in the opening paragraphs, is important in giving us a sense that the story is going to be an important symbolic journey for Sandra, and we as the reader, are invited to accompany her on this journey. She describes the lady who runs the Good Neighbour's Club, which she is a member of as, "Pat had a funny eye, a squint so that her glance swerved away from you as she talked." She then goes on to say, "Are people who help other people always not very nice looking?" This is an interesting quotation, as it is another stereotypical view of a person, and we can sense her immaturity and lack of knowledge of the world, by the way she speaks. ...read more.


This gives us a clear example of how Sandra views life. She wants to shut out reality and live her life as if in a fairytale. Kerry however, is down to earth. He may not have as many dreams as Sandra but he is enthusiastic and realistic in his views of life. This is shown by the jobs they each want to have. Kerry has a job lined up at a garage, but Sandra wants to do secretarial work. These are stereotypical roles, and again, Sandra's choice is shut off from reality. An important quotation is when Kerry, talking about Mrs Rutter, admits, "I don't go much on her." Sandra disagrees, but as we find out later, Kerry turns out to be a better judge of character than Sandra thinks. As Sandra walks back to the cottage, we are told, "Mrs Rutter watched her come in, glinting from the cushions." The word "glinting" makes us think of something sharp and dangerous and has a sense of hidden terror in it. However, as Sandra continues with her work the old lady seems pleasant enough and makes conversation. When Kerry comes in, he is described as, "The boy was bringing in the filled coal-scuttle and a bundle of sticks." As the reader, we are given the impression that he is seen as inferior to Sandra. "His shirt clung to his shoulder blades, damp with sweat." This gives us an unpleasant view of Kerry, which is how Sandra sees him. When Kerry brings up the subject of the German plane, we think this is just typical behaviour of a young boy to show interest in such things. Sandra also plays up to a stereotypical role of a young girl, in that she continues to try to stop him talking about it. "Don't start on that," said the girl. "It always gives me the willies." This shows that she is still reluctant to face up to reality and she wants to remain in her dream world. ...read more.


Ever." Firstly, this shows us that Sandra's lovely world, which she had been looking at through rose tinted spectacles had come crashing down, and she has also recognised that bad things in life exist in human beings, in the way how people choose to live, being kind or evil. She has learnt that the world is not as comfortable and as safe as she thought and problems cannot be solved by running away from them, as she used to as a child. The last words in the story are, "She walked behind him, through a world grown unreliable, in which flowers sparkle and birds sing, but not everything is as it appears, oh no." This implies that she now realises that she cannot trust everyone, and you cannot know what to expect in life, and cannot have stereotypical ideas about everything. The title of the story, "The Darkness out There", doesn't seem to fit in with the cheery tone we are met with at the beginning of the story. However, by the end, we realise that the title is given as a hidden threat in the wonderful world which Sandra lives in. Although she doesn't realise it at the beginning, the darkness is waiting for Sandra to face up to reality, and realise that she cannot shut out all of the bad things in life and keep running away like a child forever. Sandra has realised, by the end of the story that it is wrong to have pre-conceptions of people when they first meet. She has experienced this first hand with her initial judgements of both Kerry and Mrs Rutter, which turned out to be very wrong. The beginning of the story shows Sandra as young and na�ve, but by the end she has learnt valuable lessons and has finally allowed herself to come to terms with reality, and this has helped her to grow up and become more mature, with more understanding of life and more experience. Kirsty Bell 11M ...read more.

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