Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 499

The idea for creating A Child’s Christmas in Wales probably began with Dylan Thomas’ talk “Reminiscences of Childhood,” which aired on the Welsh BBC in 1942. By 1945, the poet had developed this material into a talk called “Memories of Christmas,” which appeared on the Children’s Hour of BBC. It...

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The idea for creating A Child’s Christmas in Wales probably began with Dylan Thomas’ talk “Reminiscences of Childhood,” which aired on the Welsh BBC in 1942. By 1945, the poet had developed this material into a talk called “Memories of Christmas,” which appeared on the Children’s Hour of BBC. It then became an essay entitled “Conversations about Christmas” in 1947, which Thomas sold to Picture Post, and later “A Child’s Memories of Christmas in Wales,” which he sold to Harper’s Bazaar in 1952. The book with the present title appeared in 1954 shortly after the author’s death.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales is a nostalgic review of life for a little boy in Wales during the 1920’s. The stories are not so much about the festivities of Christmas as about the peculiar habits of people as revealed in this season of feasting and merriment. The book moves quickly from episode to episode, with the primary focus resting on how unusual the world appears through the eyes of a little boy who is still discovering life. The author has a young boy prompt the adult narrator from time to time to focus on matters important and interesting to little children.

While Thomas makes no direct claims to be writing autobiographical pieces, the nature of the story as set in Wales is clearly connected to his childhood experiences at his parent’s home on Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea. Like so many poems by Thomas, these stories represent his collective experiences in West Wales. The opening of the book alerts the reader to the author’s intentional confusion as to whether he was twelve or six years old when these events took place. The answer to this supposed puzzle is “both and neither.” Thomas is choosing freely those events that illustrate his view of the humorous and sometimes absurd qualities of life.

Many of the passages in this book vibrate with humor. For example, Mr. Prothero proves himself to be a bumbler, using his shoe to swat vainly the smoke created by the smoldering pipe that he has dropped into his easy chair. The absurdity of his efforts to brush away the smoke without first discovering the source of it is exceeded only by his spinster sister’s query as to whether the firemen would like something to read after putting out the fire. One can find more humor in the actions of the aunts and uncles in the narrator’s home, for these older folks are in many ways overgrown children indulging themselves in pranks, port, and cigars.

Themes in this collection are less important than the role of imagination in making a commonplace world entrancing. Nevertheless, several themes emerge, such as the importance of play and role-playing for people of all ages. The stories also quietly reveal a lonely little boy who tries numerous tricks in order to gain attention. Most of all, the collection treats the beauty of life when seen imaginatively through the eyes of a child.

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Critical Context