How would you describe the narrative style that Thomas employs in these stories ( the tree, the enemies, the visitor, the burning baby? How does is it differ from that employed in 'Peaches' and 'A visit to Grandpa's ? ` `
In the earlier stories Dylan Thomas explores dark and twisted themes, in a symbolic and sometimes allegorical way. They are reminiscent of horror stories, using elements of fairy tales, myths and legends and the Bible. Characters are used as representatives of, for example, death and the Church. In the later stories there is more humor and charm, and the characters represent scenes reflective of Thomas´ early years.
"Peaches" and "A Visit to Grandpa's" are the first two stories in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, a collection which forms a kind of autobiography of the writer's younger years. In them he reminisces with humor and quirky details about his life, or at least a version of what his life could have been like. Like his poetry, the prose in these stories uses unexpected images and sharp focus along with a strong sense of rhythm to create the unique style Thomas is known for. He creates humor and charm with the combination of non-judgmental observation of small details, unusual characters, and the juxtaposition of serious and lighthearted moments and reactions. He is particularly gifted at conveying the details of the world of childhood, capturing the essence of the experience of a child surrounded by an adult world, for example, in just a few simple lines:
Jack's tears had dried. "I don't like Gwilym, he's barmy."
"No he isn't, I found a lot of poems in his bedroom once. They were all written to girls. And he showed them to me afterwards, and he'd changed all the girls´ names to God.”
"No he isn't he goes with actresses. He knows Corrine Griffith.”
Rather than adding interpretation of how characters feel and think, Thomas captures their world through their dialogue and vivid descriptions of their behavior, as can been seen in these lines about the children playing together happily:
"Down the thick dingle Jack and I ran shouting, scalping the brambles…,dancing, hallooing. We skidded to a stop…"
The same kind of humorous, simple style is apparent in "A Visit to Grandpa's":
“Nobody´s going to bury you in Llanstephan."
"Come on home, Mr Thomas."
"There's strong beer for tea."
The earlier stories, however, lack this easy humor and charm, tending to discuss more disturbing subjects with a style that incorporates fairy tale, Gothic horror and Welsh legends.
"The Visitor", for example, is the story of the death of Peter, a poet. The narrative style is dark and surreal at times, with an emphasis on death, especially when describing parts of his body, such as saying of his hands: “They were as dead as the hands on the clock, and moved to clockwork.
These stories are more macabre and twisted, less realistic, and at times include elements of horror and terror to memorable effect.
"The Burning Baby", for example, deals with the heavy subject of incest and begins with a sentence that introduces immediately the theme of the devil: “They said that Rhys was burning his baby when a gorse bush broke into fire on the summit of the hill.”
"The Enemies" also explores religious themes, contrasting Christianity with paganism. The story is full of symbolism rather than a detailed narrative, and the characters are used to create an allegory, contrasting the two religions.
In general, then, when comparing the type of narrative, consider the use (or lack) of humor, and whether the story seems to rely on a style that is realistic or surreal. While there is some overlap at times, there is still quite a distinct contrast between the effect of subject matter and narrative style in these two sets of stories.