2 AQA Learning Objectives AO1 – respond to texts critically and imaginatively, select and evaluate textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations.AO2 – explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers' presentation of ideas, themes and settings.If students are unclear exactly what is required of them in their exam, glossing these assessment objectives would be a useful thing to do.
3 The Hunchback in the Park A solitary misterPropped between trees and waterFrom the opening of the garden lockThat lets the trees and water enterUntil the Sunday sombre bell at darkEating bread from a newspaperDrinking water from the chained cupThat the children filled with gravelIn the fountain basin where I sailed my shipSlept at night in a dog kennelBut nobody chained him up.As with any poem taught in class, it can be useful to remember that for some students – perhaps many – the very sight of a poem can instil an antagonistic response, often unspoken… even a “mental fog” caused by expectations of various kinds: it’s bound to be hard… it’s a poem and I don’t like poetry… poetry is for ‘sissies’… and so on. A highly effective demystifying technique is to get the students to see the text not as a poem but as someone speaking in a particular circumstance and then getting the students to visualise themselves as a part of that circumstance. With this poem, the students might easily visualise the scene and it might help further to re-write the lines into a more natural form of speech, reflecting then on how Thomas’s more ‘poetic diction’ creates effects on the reader and thinking about why he did it this way. The students could be asked to visualise themselves as visiting a friend who takes them to the park and points to the ‘hunchback’: “[Look over there, that’s…] The hunchback in the park. [He’s a] solitary mister, propped between [the] trees and [the] water. [Right] From the opening of the garden lock…” This technique can open up even the most obscure pre-1914 poems – seeing them, not as a “poem”, but as “one half of” a genuine conversation that once occurred between people, visualising and becoming an actual part of that circumstance.
4 Like the park birds he came early Like the water he sat downAnd Mister they called Hey misterThe truant boys from the townRunning when he had heard them clearlyOn out of soundPast lake and rockeryLaughing when he shook his paperHunchbacked in mockeryThrough the loud zoo of the willow grovesDodging the park keeperWith his stick that picked up leaves.
5 And the old dog sleeperAlone between nurses and swansWhile the boys among willowsMade the tigers jump out of their eyesTo roar on the rockery stonesAll night in the unmade parkAnd the groves were blue with sailorsAfter the railings and shrubberiesThe birds the grass the trees the lakeMade all day until bell timeAnd the wild boys innocent as strawberriesA woman figure without faultStraight as a young elmHad followed the hunchbackStraight and tall from his crooked bonesTo his kennel in the dark.That she might stand in the nightAfter the locks and chains
6 These are pictures of the actual park that Dylan Thomas was writing about in this poem. How would you describe this place from these pictures?
7 The Hunchback in the Park 'A solitary mister'Propped between trees and waterFrom the opening of the garden lockThat lets the trees and water enterUntil the Sunday sombre bell at darkWhat does this short line suggest?Why mightthe man be‘propped’?It would be worth discussing with the class the concepts of 'denotation' and 'connotation' - the short 2nd line here has a clear denotation and this can be found in any dictionary; but its form within this poem - separated out as a line on its own – suggests the poet wants to 'shape' the meaning created by using form to affect, subtly, the content of the words. The connotations here suggest loneliness and sadness – the man is 'solitary' despite being in a public place. The fact that he is 'propped' may suggest that he is drunk – stereotypically some people who hang around in parks are drunks. It might also suggest that he is a fixture in the park, propped up there like a garden tool leaning against a tree. The use of 'sombre' in line 6b suggests unhappiness – at leaving the park, at life in general. There are several words and phrases that are repeated throughout the poem and two of them appear in the first stanza; bells – a possible link to Quasimodo; trees and water – links to nature.Why is the bell ‘sombre’?
8 Eating bread from a newspaper Drinking water from the chained cup That the children filled with gravelIn the fountain basin where I sailed my shipSlept at night in a dog kennelBut nobody chained him up.What are the childrendoing here?Repetition of 'chained' suggested being trapped. The children are teasing the hunchback by filling the drinking cup with gravel. The poet tells us that this poem is inspired by their childhood by mentioning sailing their boat in the fountain. The dog kennel that he sleeps in suggests a low status, akin to that of dogs. He is eating out of newspaper and drinking from a public water fountain – does this suggest that the hunchback is homeless?What does this suggestabout the hunchback?
9 Like the park birds he came early Like the water he sat down And Mister they called Hey misterThe truant boys from the townRunning when he had heard them clearlyOn out of soundWhat do the similesshow?What sort of boysmight they be?The similes show a link between the hunchback and the park. He is as much a part of the park as the birds and the water. The boys who taunt him are 'truant boys' – this suggests that they are naughty, mischievous boys. They call him and then run away when he looks over at them.What are they doing here?
10 Laughing when he shook his paper Hunchbacked in mockery Past lake and rockeryLaughing when he shook his paperHunchbacked in mockeryThrough the loud zoo of the willow grovesDodging the park keeperWith his stick that picked up leaves.What is the effectof this phrase?What does thismetaphor suggest?The boys are linked to the hunchback by the phrase 'hunchbacked in mockery' – they are bent over laughing which makes them look similar to the hunchback. The metaphor in line 22 suggests a feeling of being both caged and stared at. There is a contrast between the 'zoo' and the 'willow groves' – one a loud, noisy place and one a peaceful place. The lack of punctuation gives this stanza a fast pace mimicking the running of the boys.What is the effect of having no punctuation in the stanza?
11 Alone between nurses and swans While the boys among willows Why has the poetmentioned thesein particular?And the old sleeperAlone between nurses and swansWhile the boys among willowsMade the tigers jump out of their eyesTo roar on the rockery stonesAnd the groves were blue with sailorsWhat is the effectof this metaphor?The 'nurses' and 'swans' are also frequent visitors to the park so they are linked to the hunchback. The metaphor in line 28 suggests something menacing – the boys are staring at him in an aggressive manner. The fact that the hunchback is 'lone' while between people serves to emphasis his loneliness.
12 Made all day until bell time A woman figure without fault Straight as a young elmStraight and tall from his crooked bonesThat she might stand in the nightAfter the locks and chainsWhat is the effect ofthese contrasting words?By creating an imaginary woman the hunchback is showing his loneliness – as if he only has a human relationship with someone that he has created. The woman is a direct contrast to the hunchback – she is tall and straight while he has 'crooked bones'. The word 'straight' is repeated to emphasise it. The imaginary woman also acts as a guardian in the park when the hunchback is unable to be there. Locks and chains are mentioned again – the hunchback has been locked out of the park for the night so these chains aren't restraining him, they are excluding him.What is the hunchback doing when he creates this imaginary woman?
13 All night in the unmade park After the railings and shrubberies Why is there nopunctuation inthis line?All night in the unmade parkAfter the railings and shrubberiesThe birds the grass the trees the lakeAnd the wild boys innocent as strawberriesHad followed the hunchbackTo his kennel in the dark.Why is this ironic?Line 39 has no punctuation as these things are all being linked together – it is not a list of separate things, it is a list of linked things. Line 40 is ironic – these are the same boys who have been mocking and teasing the hunchback: they are hardly ‘innocent’. The kennel and darkness are mentioned again at the end of the poem – more emphasis on the lowly status and marginalisation of the hunchback, an ‘outsider’.