Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The love of language and the mastery of craft that inform Thomas’s finest poems are the source of the stylistic strength that gives “A Story” its unique narrative voice. According to poet and critic Donald Hall, Thomas was “the maddest of word-mad young poets,” and his descriptions of the locations and characters of “A Story” are developed from the same long chains of adjectives that mark his poetry. The boy’s uncle, in particular, is a figure of imposing dimensions, “a steaming hulk of an uncle, his braces straining like hawsers, crammed behind the counter of the tiny shop at the front of the house, and breathing like a brass band; or guzzling and blustery in the kitchen over his gutsy supper, too big for everything except the great black boats of his boots.” Like a line from “Poem in October,” the continual employment of qualifying and advancing terms, words recoiling off other words, gives the story its flavor. The mind of the boy is merged with the mind of the mature writer through the use of poetic language that expresses an outlook as well as a skill.

The pleasing peculiarities of the men on the outing are presented through Thomas’s deft utilization of vernacular speech, itself poetic in its qualities and features. The story is an homage to the people Thomas lived among in Wales, and the rhythms of his writing may be seen as emerging from the patterns and flow of the conversations he heard in pubs and shops. The dry, laconic humor and the verbal exuberance of the men effectively convey the boozy amiability that Thomas treasured.