Style of writing

Alan Paton uses relatively simple and descriptive language in “Life for a Life” which poses no major challenges in understanding the plot. However, to give local colour and construct the setting, Paton does use some Afrikaans dialect words: “Kroon” (p. 9, l. 7), “predikant” (p. 10, l. 1), “Baas” (p. 10, l. 7), “Kleinbooi” (p. 12, l. 8), etc.

The story combines narrative with dialogue passages. Dialogue lets characters speak for themselves and helps build tension points. Narrative passages help convey the setting, as well as the characters’ actions and thoughts. Emphasis is added by certain italicised phrases: “Then she said, how did he die?” (p. 20, l. 21).

Choice of words

The story contains many detailed descriptions that paint vivid images of the scenes that unfold. Examples include the descriptions of the master’s upcoming funeral or the image of the sunset over the hills: “On the other side of the valley the big house was awake, for this was the day that Big Baas Flip would be laid to rest, under the cypress trees of the graveyard in the stones.” (p. 18, ll. 6-9); “The sun was sinking in the sky over the hills of Kroon.” (p. 17, ll. 29-30).

Most of the descriptive words in the story focus on physical appearances and help outline key contrasts in the story (white versus black people; poor versus rich). Here are some essential descriptive words you should pay attention to: “hard stony face” (p.9, l. 5), “white women” (p. 9, l. 10), “brown people” (p. 9, l. 16), “white predikant” (p. 10, l. 5), “black hat and black clothes” (p. 10, l. 6), “clenched fists and bared teeth” (p. 10, l. 18), “reddish foam” (p. 11, l. 8), “tremendous voice” (p. 12, ll. 13-14), “terrified eyes” (p. 12, 16), “coloured man” (p. 14, l. 14), , etc.

Some other descriptive words focus on feelings and situations, often creating negative phrases that add to the tension in the plot: “violent death” (p. ...

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