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Compare: The first chapters of Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” & Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas”.

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Introduction

Compare: The first chapters of Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent" & Samuel Johnson's "Rasselas". The Lost Continent and 'Rasselas' are both underlying satires, 'Rasselas' with its subtle irony and The Lost Continent with its explicit humour. Therein lies the major difference between the two pieces of prose: one is implicit and the other is not. GRAMMAR 'Rasselas' is prescriptive and 'The Lost Continent' is descriptive. The effect this has on the text is that 'Rasselas' seems more dated and sophistication. This contrast can be seen in the first chapter: 'The Lost Continent': "There's a New Jersey couple up the street from my parents' house whom you see wandering around from time to time looking faintly puzzled but strangely serene." 'Rasselas': "Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and persue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies..." Immediately, the differing styles are clear. 'The Lost Continent's first chapter contains shorter sentences, and considerably less abstract nouns. ...read more.

Middle

'Rasselas', however: Page 2, para 1, lines 1 to 3... The contrast in the lexis and syntax in the opening chapters of both books is stark. There are several features of lexis between 'The Lost Continent' and 'Rasselas': Samuel Johnson uses many abstract nouns (as opposed to Bill Bryson) and Latinate language (which Bryson mostly shuns). Another major difference is that 'The Lost Continent' utilises colloquialism/slang: Pg 1: "Bobbi", "what a dump", "gas", "cherry-faced" 'Rasselas' contains NO colloquialism and contains S.E. throughout. Johnson prefers to alienate his audience with sophisticated syntax and lexis. The first chapter of 'Rasselas' describes a lot of scenery of Abissinia. In 'The Lost Continent's first chapter, however, we are introduced to Bryson himself, his life so far and his ambitions, all in a self-derogatory, facetious sense. A prominent factor of both books is the unrestrained use of names. On the first two pages alone, we are introduced to EIGHTEEN names/proper nouns. In the entire first chapter of 'Rasselas', there are FOUR names/proper nouns. This is because of the glut of pop culture references in Bill Bryson's piece. ...read more.

Conclusion

The sentences in both 'Rasselas' and 'The Lost Continent' are lengthy. However, Bryson balances long sentences with short, flippant sentences. For example: Page 1, Lines 1 to 9. 1st sentences: 5 words and 3. Third sentence: 65+ words. 4th sentence: 4 words. It can be seen that amongst brief sentences, Bryson nestles verbose sentences. 'Rasselas', however, is verbose throughout. The first line of Chapter I in 'Rasselas' yields more than 30 words, which is comparatively long. Most of the sentences in 'Rasselas' are constituted by more than 30 words. This could be because Johnson intended to 'explain' the East rather than just present it. Bryson, however, wants to trivialise his subjects and so uses short, abrupt syntax. For example: "Somebody had to." - derisive towards Des Moines. "Iowa women are almost sensationally overweight." Derisive to Iowa women. Direct Speech There is very little direct speech in 'The Lost Continent' and none in 'Rasselas'' respective first chapters. This lead both writers (especially Johnson) being impersonal and detached to their prose. Americanisms Bryson uses Americanisms: "viewmaster", "interstate", "Fred Flintstone", "hamburgers" profusely in Tlc. Johnson utilises words in an extended format: "superfluities" from "superfluous". ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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