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There was creative use of language in quite a few places in the novel which resulted in some picturesque descriptions.

The word ‘step’ has been used to play on the word ‘stepmother/father’ – ‘step by wicked step’. There is also the reference to folk tales of long ago of the stories of wicked stepmothers such as ‘Cinderella’ or the ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
‘Step by step’ also refers to the stories being recounted one by one.

Richard Harwick lived in Victorian times, i.e. 1830s to 1900s. Richard Harwick’s account is told in rather old-fashioned English, with formal phrasings. Although the period was not mentioned it could be the 19th century as the house would not otherwise have lasted if it had been earlier than than that. When his mother told him not to shed tears, he had this to say:

‘No tears! I would have found obedience easier that morning if I had known how many tears I was to shed after that day. How many nights my pillow would become a flood. How many cloudless afternoons I was to waste with my private showers. Show me the child who reaches for the hand of father or mother and says ‘Farewell’ and I will show you a storm of weeping under a face of stone.’

The language is quite flowery and not one we would use in this present age. This paragraph shows us how Richard suffered but like children of bygone days, they were encouraged not to show their feelings as ‘a face of stone’ tells us.

Some use of similies

‘like leftover shoved in a fridge’ (p. 2) – an act to which not much thought is given as if the people were not so important; here it means that Miss O’Dell sent the children to Harwick Hall without giving it much thought

‘dressed as black as a bat’ (p. 16) – to wear very deep black clothers like the fur of bats.
 ‘like someone stepping on stones over a river with water raging on both sides’ (p. 21) – trying very hard to please opposing sides such as to speak and behave very carefully so as not to offend anyone
‘speaks as roughly as a gardener’s son’ (p.25)  – to speak in common language of the lower classes in society, meaning speaking in plain not so refined (sophisticated) language and not using very polite language.

the room was icy cold ‘like the Artic’ (p 87) – very, very cold as the Artic or North Pole is bitterly cold – this is an exaggeration to add to dramatic effect

Writing as though non-living things are alive (this is called personification)
‘the twisted fingers of trees scraped at the glass (p. 2) – the branches of the trees along the road brush against the glass windows of the bus. The branches of the trees look like twisted fingers

‘ another flash shot generously across the sky’ (p. 7) – the flash of lightning is talked about as if it is alive and can dasha across the sky like a person

‘the wind still whistled through the tree, but in the room the silence is palpable (p. 34) – the wind is likened to a living thing that can whistle as it made a sound like someone whistling; the silence is likened to something solid and tangible that can be felt or touched.

Repeating phrases or expressions

‘there isn’t a story’ – this is what Colin kept saying about his story. Perhaps he is saying this because unlike the others, there were not many events happening in the story since he was separated from his father. He was just describing his memories of his dad and how he missed him.
Repeatedly saying, ‘Dumpa’s the problem’ – this is to show us the thing foremost in the character’s minds – Roy, mother, Robbo and Callie - as they thought of thier situation and tried to solve the problem. Whatever solution they arrive at, they should always take into account Dumpa’s welfare and well-being. Dumpa always come into everyone’s thoughts and reflection.

Other picturesque language

‘a family with a mint of money’ – a very rich family having a lot of money as though they own a mint , i.e. the place where money is printed
‘to do a flit’ – to go away; to move very quickly from one place to another

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