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Bill Bryson – “Notes from a small Island” What features make it amusing?

What features make it amusing?

“Notes From A Small Island” is Bill Bryson’s accounts of travelling around Britain. He writes in a very distinctive style.

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He compared this journey to a similar one that he took in 1973. He begins the book by recalling his first sight of England “on a foggy March night in 1973.” This is in the prologue.

He begins chapter one by comparing Britain in 1973 to the time when he revisited it. The humour in this passage is how he complains about England.

Throughout Bryson’s accounts of his trip, he portrays a lot of Irony. The Irony is that it is over twenty years since his last visit Britain has actually changed surprisingly little. In his accounts of Dover, he has noticed that there are a lot of similarities to Dover in 1973,

“…found myself square in front of Mrs Smegma’s establishment. It was still a hotel and looked substantially unchanged, as far as I could remember…”

It is the Ironic features that make parts of “Notes from a small island” amusing.

The reason that Bryson’s books are so funny is that they are so true and honest. I especially find the chapters about London funny because I have been there so many times myself. I love the part where he talks about multi-story car parks,

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“You drive around for ages, and then spend a small eternity shunting into a space exactly two inches wider than the average car.”

Another reason why we laugh at Bryson’s books is that it is a common instinct to laugh at other’s misfortunes. This especially occurs when we have been in a similar situation, in the past, ourselves.

“Notes from a small island” is written in the first person. Bryson uses Elision and Ellipsis in his writing. This makes his writing seem more personal and it also seems like he is actually telling his stories to the reader themselves. He also uses similes and many adjectives to create images in the reader’s mind. The use of modifiers is included in his writing. He has included dialect in his writing as well. Bryson has used both compound and complex sentences. He also uses “Tongue in Cheek Tone,”

“…a sprig of artificial lilies instantly informed me that the food would be mediocre but present with a certain well-practiced flourish.”

The use of “Tongue in cheek” creates more humour in Bryson’s writing.

The potential audience for this book is people who wish to travel or generally people who like reading comedy. It is a travel book merged with humour. The purpose of “Notes from a small island” is to inform the readers about the different places but also entertain and amuse them. His lexical field is effective.

Throughout the book, Bryson makes many observations,

“…between them consumed the last of the profiteroles and the black forest gateau from the sweet trolley. The boy, I noticed, had a double heap of both, the greedy fat pig.”

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In this quotation Bryson has basically written about what the majority of us think but do not actually say.

Bryson’s ability to put into words his travelling experiences so they can be read and enjoyed are not achieved all that often by others. He appears to have an open mind and as a result gives extensive reviews of his experiences. In these reviews provide entertainment for the reader, as they are very funny.

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Bill Bryson - "Notes from a small Island" What features make it amusing?. (2021, Sep 25). Retrieved June 26, 2022, from