Style of writing

The language employed in “The Happiest Days of Your Life” by Penelope Lively is descriptive. The author uses contractions in the dialogue, but not in the narration. This makes the dialogue seem authentic because the informal tone of the characters is shown: “She delivers him to a room where boys are scattered among inky tables (...) ‘Now this is the Lower Third, Charles, who you’d be with if you come to us in September.’ ”

The choice of words reflects the social setting of the story, specifically the British upper-middle class. British expressions such as “chap” , “quid” , and “mash” , and references to real and wealthier areas in England – “Sussex” , “Hampstead” – give the story an authentic British atmosphere.

The author uses many adjectives and adverbs to describe the setting, which helps the author create vivid images but also convey the characters’ perspective and state of mind. For example, the description of the school’s building and surroundings suggests mystery and a feeling of entrapment, conveying Charles’ anxiety: “The building was red brick, early nineteenth century, spreading out long arms in which windows glittered blackly. Flowers, trapped in neat beds, were alternated red and white” .

In a similar manner, adjectives and adverbs help suggest that Charles’ inner conflict takes on bigger proportions when he meets his potential classmates: “And the faces, if he looks up, swing into one another in kaleidoscopic patterns and the floor under his feet is unsteady, lifting and falling.”


The similes we find in the story convey more details about the setting, the characters, and the deeper meanings of the story.

From the beginning of the story, a simile is used to suggest a certain emotional d...

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