Dylan Thomas is the most famous Welsh poet of all time, this poem is based on his own experience. 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 tulips and the hour when the old lady arrived in the bath-chair with six dogs, 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 Id left the park and the sea-town called: The Hunchback in the Park.
Summary: This is the sad story of a homeless man who is different from others, both physically (he has a deformity, hence "hunchback") and mentally. As a result, he is isolated and spends all day in the park. He is tormented by the local children and also has to avoid the park keeper. The tramp's life is lonely, miserable and full of fear.
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 alliteration of the s sound emphasises the sadness that it is the end of the day. The parks closure means he becomes homeless. No title or name The Hunchback -Solitary mister-lack of respect? De-humanises him. 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? Surrounded by natural world
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. Verbs list the three basic essentials for life. Theyre 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. 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 Childish point of view – contrast between a free, playful young boy and the homeless man The children are selfish- they dont care about what the hunchback needs.
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 He enjoys the beauty of the park. The natural beauty of the park is in contrast to the degradation of his sleeping accommodation. interesting image. -out of sound instead of out of sight. Could suggest that they run far enough so the hunchbacks response is not audible or until the sound of their feet or taunts can no longer be heard. suggests that the boys wanted the hunchback to hear their taunts. - an act of bravado on the part of the boys. Similes link the tramp to the natural world so that he seems part of it, suggests he has become part of his environment. The boys mocking shouts are written phonetically- how they sound-effect = realistic
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. The boys copy the hunchbacks posture – acting cruelly about something that he cannot alter and which is a disability. 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? Metaphor: the tramp feels like he is an animal in the zoo – watched, gawked at for entertainment Childish description – innocence?
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 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 – hes free to roam and dream Metaphorical - endlessness of the boys imagination – imaginary games. Or suggests boys are free and wild Metaphorical - endlessness of the boys imagination – imaginary games. Or suggests boys are free and wild He feels alone even when he isnt. Contrasts with the boys friendship.
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 The only person he has is in his dreams Morose, sad tone – he imagines a woman without fault – she stands with him, straight and perfect in contrast to the hunchback Simile. Woman is compared with nature – strong and tall. Compares her to nature like the tramp. He imagines that she will protect him. Not clear if this woman is imaginary or real. She has qualities that the hunchabck would admire.
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. 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? the reader is left unsure, in the dark, as to what we should take from this poem Innocent contrasts with their cruel mockery Another comparison of the hunchback to a dog- dehumanises him.
FORM: The poem contains several characters; the boys, the narrator who tells us about the hunchback and the hunchback himself. STRUCTURE: The poem is a series of observations. 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". ANIMAL METAPHORS: Used to show how uncivilised the hunchback is, and to suggest how wild the boys are. ATTITUDES AND FEELINGS: LONELINESS: The hunchback is isolated from society and lonely. THOUGHTLESSNESS: The boys are cruel, but the poem also says they are innocent, maybe they are unaware of the consequences of their actions? VULNERABILITY: The vision of the woman shows the hunchback needs to be protacted. IDENTITY,NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Look through the following list of words. Which would you use to describe the old man? Why? Friendlyfamiliar Isolated DESPISED neglected lonelyirritable helpless self-pityingpoor imaginative uglyfrightening stillproudsad humble
Links with other poems:
Not all doom and gloom… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lki_IeM6 bQ
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.