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Explore two critics' interpretations of Dylan Thomas's attitude towards society. With detailed analysis of at least five poems, present your own view of the Selected Poems.

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Introduction

Explore two critics' interpretations of Dylan Thomas's attitude towards society. With detailed analysis of at least five poems, present your own view of the Selected Poems. Swansea was the "ugly lovely town"1of Dylan Thomas's childhood and it was through his explorations of Swansea and the surrounding area that he formed his first impressions of childhood. Thomas grew up during the depression after the First World War and during this time there was massive unemployment in Swansea and this would have influenced his outlook on society, but although Thomas's poems often contained bleak imagery he was not a war poet and his poems dealt with personal issues such as innocence, experience and death rather than being political. Thomas's death was an epitaph of his life, his use of alcohol to escape social structures resulting in his premature death characterises Thomas's struggle against structures but his final acceptance of them. He described his youth as the "years ... before I knew I was happy"2, which can be interpreted as being before he lost his innocence and became aware of society and it's restrictions. Some critics have argued that Thomas considered being a poet as a job and that what he wrote didn't actually mean anything personal to him. ...read more.

Middle

Tindall writes that "At the Surrealist Exhibition of 1936 ... Thomas carried a cup of boiled string around. 'Weak or strong?' he asked", but Thomas didn't consider himself a Surrealist and may have merely been mocking the people who considered themselves Surrealists, and rather than automatic writing Dylan Thomas in fact "laboured every afternoon testing... words"8. Thomas viewed the way society labelled people, jobs, artists and writers as ridiculous, he refused to let himself be categorised into being a certain type of poet and scorned critics who tried to do this. I use everything and anything to make my poems work and move in the directions I want them to: old tricks, new tricks, puns, portmanteau-words, paradox, allusion, paronomasia, paragram, catachresis, slang, assonantal rhymes, vowel rhymes, sprung rhythm... Thomas in this statement tried to confuse the critics by employing complex language and using technical language to such an extreme that he made the words seem unreal, which may well have been his aim as he felt that poetry should just be poetry and not a combination of writing techniques. In 'The Hunchback in the park' Thomas uses many images of chained nature - "the garden lock ... chained cup ... dog kennel", the image of society restricting nature is a metaphor for the way society "chains" itself up using labels. ...read more.

Conclusion

The religious connotations in "dove" and "ark" can be traced back to Thomas's strict chapel childhood and it is possible that the images link to the concept of creation with Thomas creating a new world in his poetry. Everything Thomas created, his poetic existed but in a less than obvious form, and incorporating what he wanted rather than what it was expected to contain. Although some phrases in Thomas's poetry can appear obscure, Thomas doesn't use them for the sake of appearing surreal. The image of "All the sun long", in 'Fern Hill'12, illustrates the fact that nature is also at the mercy to time. Shapiro criticises the fact that he finds it "hard to locate the distinctiveness of Thomas's idiom", but Tindall embraces it, believing that the "'irrational element' is a "distinguished mark of great poetry". The idiom Dylan Thomas used was at the time unique because it broke the structures set on poetry through it's syntax and in doing this Thomas articulated his frustration with society. The juxtaposition between the innocence of "green" and the accepting experience of "dying" summarises Thomas's innocence in refusing to accept structures but his awareness that they exist and that he must conform to them. It is the irony: that the "sea" appears free while being in "chains" because of the land, which Thomas feels applies to his poetry. ...read more.

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