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The language used in “People-Watching” by Julia Gray is simple, the story being told through dialogue and the inner thoughts of one of the characters, Paul. When dialogue is used, the sentences are short or medium length, reflecting that one of the characters Kajsa is a foreigner and the other is a local. Kajsa speaks more formal English, while Paul is sometimes more colloquial:

“Do you think that American family wanted you to write down every bloody thing they were saying?” […]
“Paul,” says Kajsa quietly. “We are just people-watching. There really is no law against that.” (ll. 117-120)

The choice of words also reflects the setting and the characters’ occupation. Several words depict Paddington Station and its surroundings; other words refer to places in the UK while some others are related to painting and architecture: “Now she is pulling a manila sketchbook from her corduroy bag, and a pencil, and a bundle of waxy oil pastels. Her fringe is dip-dyed in mermaid green; her chipped front tooth gives her the look of an inquisitive child.” (ll. 14-16)


The text includes some similes which help the reader imagine the way the characters interact. The art teacher advises the students to “absorb your experiences like sponges” (ll. 28-29). Then, Paul uses his “needlepoint pencil to-ing and fro-ing like a gramophone arm” (ll. 61-62), suggesting that he works fast, yet his hand is hard to follow.

Another interesting simile is that of Paul pronouncing “his consonants rigid, like spilled beads” (l. 95) which conveys the way the character speaks, recalling the sound of his voice.



Repetition marks a high point of tension in the narrative, when Paul feels unable to draw people:

“I can’t do this,” he says.
“Why not?” asks Kajsa, leaning over. “It’s great! You should keep going!”
“I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t. It’s an invasion of privacy, what we’re doing.” (ll. 114-116)



Enumerations (mentioning several objects in a row) are frequently employed in the text. Sometimes, they are related to the topic of conversation between the two characters – English syntax:“Water-drinking, trainspotting, fox-hunting. Actually, there’s quite a lot of them, now he thinks about it. Stamp-collecting, sheep-worrying, soul-destroying.” (ll. 48-49)


Moreover, here we will focus on metaphors and elipsis.

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