There are several ways to approach the story. I find that the best way to think about themes is pose questions:
1. The theme of friendship: Why are Jack and Dylan friends? What brings the together, and what drives them apart?
2. The theme of duplicity or sin: everyone in the story is duplicitous in some way—Uncle Jim is a drunkard who sells livestock to go on drinking bouts; Annie is implicated in the attempt to get Mrs Williams to pay thirty shillings for Jack’s “visit”; even the pious Gwilym’s poems to God were originally written for girls. Why is the notion of confession so important, and why does Dylan confess to Jack but not to Gwilym?
3. The theme of imagination: the story is told from young Dylan’s point of view, so the understanding we have of events is colored by his imaginative connection to his home and by his emotional response to what happens to him. What is the difference between how Dylan describes things and what really seems to be going on?
4. The theme of maturation: How can the story be understood as a coming-of-age story? What lesson has Dylan learned by the end of the story, or how is he different at the end than at the beginning?
5. The theme of physicality: The story is very much concerned with the physicality of things, either in description of Uncle Jim’s home, or in the physicality of the boys’ play, or simply in physical appetites. How do these appetites contribute to the action of the story?