Session 3 A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas July 20th 2011

Notes for first reading: This story is different from the first two because it hasn’t got a traditional plot. Instead it’s a memoir – memories – and as such, some of the memories may feel familiar to you whilst the structure of the piece may just seem odd. Stay with it – it’s famous Christmas piece and worth studying. It has three parts:

The first part is the narrator (the person relating the memoir) remembering not just one Christmas, but all the Christmases of his boyhood, rolled into one, and then he focuses on one memory at random; the Christmas Eve his friend Jim’s house caught on fire.

In the second part, the narrator – now grown old – imagines a conversation with a young boy who is curious about the narrator’s childhood. They talk of the postman and presents, and what Christmas was like.

In the third and final part, we’re back to the narrator’s voice again as he continues to describe a typical Christmas Day.

FIRST READING – DISCUSS THE IMPACT OF THE STORY.

1. Who is involved? (List of characters)
2. Where/when does this happen? (Description of setting)
3. What happens? (What is being described on each page)
4. Why does this happen? (What reasons might the author have for writing this work?)
5. What is the final result? (What has been revealed to the reader?)

SECOND READING

Now we step back and take notice of the writer’s craft in order to fully understand and appreciate the art form (and the story itself).

1. Read the piece a second time and make note of the three separate parts
2. Find and underline two sentences you think are lovely
3. Find and underline four sentences or phrases of Christmas memories you identify with
4. Underline two sentences or phrases that made you smile or surprised you

WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS MEMOIR?

There are two great pleasures in this piece: one is the lyricism of the language – Thomas was a famous poet and the second is the nostalgic memories of Christmas.

The story also reveals what British society was like when Thomas was young. (He was born in 1914.) The uncles sit and smoke, while the aunts ‘sit timidly by’. The uncles’ drinking is not remarked upon, whilst the aunts’ are figures of humor when they quaff elderberry wine because drinking was seen as a man’s activity.

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