Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Thomas pays careful attention to the details of conversation and is a keen observer of physical detail. In this story, as in others, he uses thick descriptive images to create the atmosphere. He goes into meticulous detail when describing persons, for example, the people in the pub where Uncle Jim goes to drink, and places, such as the warm and homey kitchen, the best room where Mrs. Williams is entertained, and Gwilym’s chapel.

Thomas also uses well-chosen analogies to depict character and behavior. Uncle Jim’s red drinker’s face, with bristling side-whiskers and a long, pointed nose, sometimes looks like a fox’s, sometimes like a devil’s. The narrator even imagines that the foxlike Uncle Jim eats piglets and drinks their blood. Gwilym, thin of body, with a flat square face, is like a garden spade. Mrs. Williams looks and moves like a ship. Aunt Annie, fussing, darting her head around, clucking, fidgeting, appears birdlike.

Most characteristic of Thomas’s style is his use of the hywl, the passionate, singsong Welsh preaching style, shifting back and forth between whisper and shout. One can hear this style in Thomas’s recorded recitations of his own and others’ poetry, and one can hear it in his prose, for example, when the narrator describes his joy at playing cowboys and Indians:On my haunches, eager and alone, casting an ebony shadow, with the Gorsehill jungle swarming, the violent, impossible birds and fishes leaping, hidden under four-stemmed flowers the height of horses, in the early evening in a dingle near Carmarthen, my friend Jack Williams invisibly near me, I felt all my young body like an excited animal surrounding me, the torn knees bent, the bumping heart, the long heat and depth between the legs, the sweat prickling in the hands, the tunnels down to the eardrums, the little balls of dirt between the toes, the eyes in the sockets, the tucked-up voice, the blood racing, the memory around and within flying, jumping, swimming, and waiting to pounce.

This long sentence, piling up dependent clause after dependent clause, shows both Thomas’s use of description and the rhythms of his prose.