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The Hunchback in the Park

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1 The Hunchback in the Park
By Dylan Thomas


3 Dylan Thomas remembers the tramp and the park from childhood
Dylan Thomas remembers the tramp and the park from childhood. How does he express the child’s idea that the park only existed during the day? “We knew every inhabitant of that park; every regular visitor; every nursemaid; every gardener; every old man. We knew the hour when the alarming retired policeman came in to look at the dahlias and the hour when the old lady arrived in the bath-chair with six Pekinese, and a pale girl to read aloud to her. I think she read the newspaper, but she always said she read the Wizard. The face of the old man who sat summer and winter on the bench looking over the reservoir. I can see clearly now and I wrote a poem long after I’d left the park and the sea-town called: ‘The Hunchback in the Park’.”

4 No title or name - has become part of the park’s rituals and his assigned name is lonely and habitual, ’Solitary mister’.  The visitors to the park know the hunchback and that he is always alone. Labeled by his disability. How does the length of the line support this? What does the word propped suggest? The hunchback in the park A solitary mister Propped between trees and water From the opening of the garden lock That lets the trees and water enter Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark FORM: Narrative poem with several characters (narrator / boys / tramp) from the perspective of a young boy alliteration of the ‘s’ sound emphasises the sadness that it is the end of the day. The park’s closure means he becomes homeless. The ‘s’ sound is also reminiscent of the sound of a deep resonant bell sounding bringing the sound to life in the poem.

5 Verbs list the three basic essentials for life
Verbs list the three basic essentials for life. They’re shocking ones as the hunchback only has the basics to sustain him. Also he sleeps in a ‘dog kennel.’ This shows that the hunchback has a fairly hand to mouth existence and appears little more than an animal; one step up from a dog. Childish point of view – contrast between a free, playful young boy and the homeless man Eating bread from a newspaper Drinking water from the chained cup That the children filled with gravel In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship Slept at night in a dog kennel But nobody chained him up. ambiguous. It is almost as though the narrator is suggesting that maybe the hunchback should have been chained up as far as his young self believed because he was not normal. Could also suggest that nobody needed to chain him up because he was already ‘chained’ by his poverty

6 enjoys the beauty of the park
enjoys the beauty of the park. The natural beauty of the park is in contrast to the degradation of his sleeping accommodation. The hunchback can be seen to be as natural as water sitting on the ground but as unwanted as flood water which makes this an effective simile in showing the hunchback’s alienation from the rest of society. Like the park birds he came early Like the water he sat down And Mister they called Hey mister The truant boys from the town Running when he had heard them clearly On out of sound suggests flooding and puddles suggests that the boys wanted the hunchback to hear their taunts. - an act of bravado on the boys’ parts. Little punctuation – freedom – reflects the freedom of the boys? interesting image. -‘out of sound’ instead of ‘out of sight.’ Could suggest that they run far enough so the hunchback’s response is not audible or until the sound of their feet or taunts can no longer be heard. The line ends abruptly after 4 syllables - runs out of sound paralleling the words.

7 The boys copy the hunchback’s posture – acting cruelly about something that he cannot alter and which is a disability. Harks back to the dark days when people with disabilities were taken round and viewed as circus freaks for people’s entertainment. Past lake and rockery Laughing when he shook his paper Hunchbacked in mockery Through the loud zoo of the willow groves Dodging the park keeper With his stick that picked up leaves. Mataphor: the tramp feels like he is an animal in the zoo – watched, gawked at for entertainment Child-like, boyish or possibly animalistic imagery – a word not usually associated with a grown man. Does this make the hunchback seem more wild and free or is it just the voice of the boy (speaker) coming through? Childish description – innocence?

8 Animalistic imagery – up early with the birds, moves around like an animal, dodging the park keeper etc. Has a basic life, simple food, ties into the isolation he feels – he is a creature on the outskirts without human feelings? He is trapped but also free like an animal in the way he exists in nature without ties – he’s free to roam and dream And the old dog sleeper Alone between nurses and swans While the boys among willows Made the tigers jump out of their eyes To roar on the rockery stones And the groves were blue with sailors He feels alone even when he isn’t. Metaphorical - boundlessness of the boys’ imagination – imaginary games

9 The only person he has is in his dreams
Made all day until bell time A woman figure without fault Straight as a young elm Straight and tall from his crooked bones That she might stand in the night After the locks and chains Woman is compared with nature – strong and tall. He imagines that she will protect him. Morose, sad tone – he imagines a woman without fault – she stands with him, straight and perfect in contrast to the hunchback

10 The boys are ‘wild’ like ‘strawberries
The boys are ‘wild’ like ‘strawberries.’ Wild strawberries are small and very bitter or very sweet - the hunchback actually relishes the human contact they provide him with? Or they are red the colour of danger and naturally wild All night in the unmade park After the railings and shrubberies The birds the grass the trees the lake And the wild boys innocent as strawberries Had followed the hunchback To his kennel in the dark.  lack of punctuation suggests they follow in a stream of consciousness as things do in a dream or in random thoughts – this suggests it is a metaphorical following. the reader is left unsure, in the ‘dark,’ as to what we should take from this poem

11 The hunchback remembers the things and the boys when he returns to his kennel. The punctuation leaves things ambiguous as there could be a more literal and sinister reading of the poem with the boys following then hunchback to his kennel to hurt him in the dark when no-one can see. Thomas uses the simile ‘wild boys innocent as strawberries’ and this can be read in many ways. If the boys follow the hunchback to his kennel what are they going to do to him? There is a threat of violence. There is also a sense that the narrator the ‘I’ of the poem is not as innocent as the fact in the past he ‘sailed’ a ship suggests as he knows that the boys follow the hunchback which suggests he was amongst them

12 Look through the following list of words
Look through the following list of words. Which would you use to describe the old man?    Friendly familiar Isolated despised neglected lonely irritable helpless self-pitying poor imaginative ugly frightening still proud sad humble

13 Attitudes, themes and ideas
The poet manages to make us feel great sympathy for this man who has been cast out from society through no fault of his own. It's hard not to feel responsibility for the hunchback or even guilt after reading this poem. Themes People, especially children, can be very cruel. There is not one example of the man going out of his way to be unkind or rude to anyone. He gets annoyed and angry when the children tease him - which is exactly what they want. We should not judge people simply on what they look like. This man is and looks different. We get the sense that this is why he is alone in the park, not for anything he might have done. This is sad to think. Morals. The final picture of the man - who is regarded as so worthless that we never know his name - retreating to his "kennel in the dark" is tragic, and provides a damning moral comment on society failing those who need care.

14 Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) is probably the most famous Welsh poet of all time.
He was born in Swansea, South Wales. He wrote and spoke in English, even though both his parents spoke fluent Welsh. His father was an English teacher and used to read a lot to him when he was very young. Shakespeare was a particular favourite. Dylan Thomas loved language and did very well in English though not so well in other subjects. He left school at 16 to become a junior reporter for his local newspaper.

15 His first book of poetry, 18 Poems, published in 1934, was a success and so he moved to London. He also started to drink heavily, a habit which eventually blighted the rest of his short life. Two years later he met Caitlin MacNamara and married her in They were well known for having a stormy relationship. Thomas became well known for his deep, rich Welsh voice. He made more than 200 broadcasts on BBC radio and did speaking tours in America, where he was very popular, partly because he lived up to the stereotype of a maverick poet - intelligent, gifted and passionate but also drunk, reckless and argumentative. It was on his fourth and last trip to America in 1953 that he died after a prolonged drinking session. His body was brought back from New York to Laugharne where he was buried. When his wife died in 1994, she was buried with him.

16 Structure and language
The poem looks regular, with seven clearly separate stanzas, all of which have the same number of lines (six). However, the punctuation is irregular and minimal: there are only three full stops in the whole poem (at the end of stanzas two, four and seven). The gaps between the stanzas assist us in reading the poem aloud. The lack of organisation (because of an absence of punctuation and irregular, inconsistent rhyme) could reflect a lack of stability in the life of the "hunchback". Sound There is some rhyme (eg stanza one, first and last lines, "park/dark"; stanza four, lines one and three, "rockery/mockery") and half rhyme (eg stanza one, lines two, three and five, "mister/water/enter") but there is no regular pattern to it. One could easily choose to read several lines together as there are examples of enjambment

17 Sentence structure and punctuation
Apart from three full stops at the end of some quite long and complex sentences, there is no other punctuation in this poem. What is the effect of this? Does it influence the way you read the poem? Look at the third line of the last stanza, ‘The birds the grass the trees the lake’. What is the effect of this list?

18 Links with other poems:
Casehistory: Alison (head injury) Both deal with figures who are isolated in some way (though for very different reasons). Disability is central to both poems. Both warn against judging by appearances. Alison is not merely a set of notes (a "casehistory"); she has a past and distinct present. The term "hunchback"reflects that he is judged and known only by his appearance. Both central characters' lives are, for different reasons, empty. A reader will certainly feel sympathy for both characters.

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