Dylan Thomas Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1558 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Dylan Thomas

In order to understand the poetical works of Dylan Thomas, one must fully explore his cultural/societal background which will provide the foundation for appreciating his magnificent poetry which Elder Olson declares leaves "the reader with the impression that Thomas had a remarkable sense of language and rhythm (and) was saying something important about subjects of importance." His poetry is also "unclassifiable," for his themes "were the age-old ones of birth, sex and death" and were "conceived and treated in a way that was anything but familiar" (2).

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914 in the village of Swansea in Wales. In 1934, following his time at grammar school, Thomas's family relocated to London, where his first volume of poetry was published. At such a young age, being only twenty years old, Thomas "revealed unusual power in the use of poetic diction and imagery" while also exhibiting "elements of surrealism and personal fantasy." Between 1936 and 1939, Thomas published Twenty-Five Poems and the Map of Love, both of which included some works of prose.

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In 1940, his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, an obvious homage to James Joyce's novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, contained many autobiographical writings; his Adventures in the Skin Trade (published one year after his death in 1953) was mostly comprised of prose pieces and part of an unfinished novel. After World War II, Thomas became a literary commentator for BBC Radio which was followed by his now-famous Under Milkwood (also published in 1954), "a play for voices which was originally written for radio broadcast" and centered on "the lives of the inhabitants of Llareggub, a small, Welsh seaside town." Following the success of Under Milkwood, Thomas toured the United States and became extremely popular with audiences, yet in his personal life, he was experiencing much self-doubt and a sense of worthlessness, due in part to his on-going struggle with alcoholism which inevitably contributed to his death in New York City on November 9, 1953 (Bengtsson, "Biography of Dylan Thomas," Internet).

Term Paper on Dylan Thomas in Order to Understand the Assignment

For Dylan Thomas, growing up in Wales provided him with some important peculiarities of temperament and personality which highly affected his overall poetical qualities. First of all, his parents spoke Welsh in the household in which Dylan grew up, although he did not understand the language nor speak it. Yet hearing the Welsh language on a daily basis obviously affected Dylan's use of imagery in his poetry. Also, his parents preserved the cultural heritage of Wales in their house and in turn instilled this heritage in their son.

This situation, however, was far more complicated, for it involved many other factors, such as Dylan's education, both at home and in school, the social setting of the community in which he lived and the use of the Welsh language by those that he encountered in his daily life. But most importantly, the social and cultural arena of Wales and the small village of Swansea were very different from those found in England and Ireland, for in Wales, although it had been conquered by the British, the people did not see themselves as a conquered race; instead, they were highly self-reliant and did not compare themselves to an aristocratic class, as was the case in England.

Another important aspect of Dylan's young life was his penchant for reading which greatly influenced his later life as an accomplished Welsh poet. As Ralph Maud relates, Dylan was a great reader and "must have read rapidly in early youth to achieve his precocious vocabulary," and that, according to Dylan's Senior English teacher, he was "brilliant in English but inattentive in every other class." Thus, by the age of ten, Dylan had decided to become a poet (2). In 1951, Dylan recalled that he "loved language" in school and wished to "work in it and for it." Some of the literary classics that he read as a young boy included Scottish ballads, William Blake's Songs of Innocence and the "incomprehensible magical majesty and nonsense of Shakespeare." Some of the noted authors included Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an English Opium-Eater), Christopher Marlowe (Tragical History of Doctor Faustus), Edgar Allan Poe, William Butler Yeats and DH Lawrence (Maud 2-3).

Another vital aspect of Dylan's young life was his reverence for the English poets who had been born and raised in environments similar to his own. Generally speaking, these poets came from among the working class, such as shopkeepers and farmers, two professions which Dylan was very familiar with. He also admired their perseverance and devotion, despite having a very basic education and being reared in a humble background; some of these poets even attained national prominence and gained fame through their talents as an orator or poet.

Finally, Dylan Thomas, as a young boy, was steeped in Welsh religion, being Welsh Puritanism, and the comings and goings of those that represented the church. Within the rural society which Dylan was raised, the local squire or priest often served as the basis for many lessons on social behavior and judgment. In essence, the religious figure became the final authority, especially when it came to dealing with the weaknesses of the flesh, including excessive drinking. This may help us to understand why Dylan Thomas, in his later adult years, felt so guilty about his drinking, despite the fact that he drank continuously for many years up until the time of his death in 1953.

In addition, it is quite feasible that young Dylan Thomas was often faced with extreme loneliness, especially since he was born and raised in a very small village with virtually no outside contact. Artistically, in such a place, painting was almost non-existent; music, except for that encountered in church, was not based on creativity; there were no prominent adults to encourage artistic talent, and due to the village's distance from major cities, no new ideas filtered in which undoubtedly forced young Dylan to seek out his Welsh heritage for poetical inspiration.

In the spring of 1933, Dylan Thomas paid a visit to London to see his recently-married sister Nancy. Here, Dylan wrote to the publisher of New Verse poetry magazine and stated "Whether time has shown any improvement (in his poetry) I find it hard to say, as I have developed... In the smug darkness of a provincial town" (Emery 167). The poem that Dylan submitted to this poetry magazine was "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," which was later heavily revised and then re-published in Thomas's Twenty-Five Poems.

The first stanza of this poem is very Dylanesque, for it speaks of death in highly metaphorical terms. "Death shall have no dominion," not even when the bones of men "are picked clean" and the "clean bones gone;" even when "they sink through the sea/they shall rise again," and not even when "lovers be lost," for "love shall not." Exactly what Dylan Thomas is trying to say in this poem is not clear, yet he is obviously implying that death is not the all-conquering hero. For Dylan Thomas, death was one of his major themes, much like that of Edgar Allan Poe in his excursions into death in poems like "The Conqueror Worm" and "Ulalume." However, Thomas could be making a reference to the New Testament where it is mentioned that the dead shall also rise from the sea when Jesus Christ returns to earth following the years of the Anti-Christ.

In 1948, D.J. Thomas, Dylan's father, had become semi-invalid and was slowly going blind. Thus, for Dylan, his father's slow decline into death greatly distressed him and inspired him to write one of his last poems, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." In this poem, the main contrasting theme can be found in the words "Rage,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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