The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas: Summary and Critical Analysis

The Hunchback in the Park is a symbolic poem by Dylan Thomas which is about love, nature and imagination. Thomas uses the imagery of birth, life and death and the psychological metaphors of the womb to create a picture of the psychological life of the artist. Through this poem he explores the life and activities of an artist.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

He creates different binary oppositions like the past and the present, the world of children and the world of adults, and the world of reality and the world of imagination. He renders the typical Wordsworthian double consciousness while dealing with two different times and two different worlds of children and the world of adults.

The poem at another level is a depiction of the life of an artist. Here, Dylan Thomas creates a distinction between the world of reality and the world of imagination. This view is exploded through the experiences of the solitary mister who visits the park everyday and who is physically deformed. From the past, he brings the memories of childhood in which we see the poet with children in the parks to hurl the stones at “the solitary mister” an artist. He is a 'solitary mister', a lonely poor man. As the children in the poem tease the hunchback, the poet himself has teased the hunchback, the dejected and rejected artist, in a sense. 'I' here is the poetic persona who is a child as he's sailing in the fountain basin for him when the key is opened, the world is open; the park is open. The hunchback is the imaginative portrayal of the poet himself. The man is not comfortable in life due to his consciousness of the reality and pain of life, especially in contrast to the perfect world he creates in his art. But in imagination, he can create the perfect company of a woman; this is his imagination and fantastic life, though he has to live in the "dog kennel" of reality. He is imperfect, no doubt, but creates perfection out of his imperfection. From his hunch, disability, he creates an image of a perfect woman, and that can be analogous to God's creation of Adam out of his rib. She might be the mirror in which he could visualize the shadow of his perfection that is not crooked. This and the likes, in fact, so many complex things, in the poem tell us how the artist is living in two worlds, one of reality and the other of his art and imagination. It is the dividedness of his attitude that pulls down the wall between two different times and two different worlds. At this point the poet seems to be a tormentor of himself. The child Dylan Thomas hurls the stone at the adult Dylan Thomas.

This famous poem is an example of the twentieth century Romanticism that Thomas claimed to belong to. In it a man with a hunchback who symbolizes the adult, the artist, and the conscious thinker is seen surviving in a split world, half in reality and half in a romantic world of imagination. The poem is intriguing because of the complexity and open-endedness of its theme. But it is an example of such modern poetry that reminds the reader that it is, and should be, not possible to 'fix' the meaning of a thing like a work of poetry.

This poem is a vision of three worlds and two times. The poet, transcending the two worlds - that of the hunchback and that of the children - projects his world, the artist's world into the hunchback's world. Past and present are the two times for he was a child or tormentor in the past and now a pathetic adult followed up to the dog's kennel by the children. The poem seems also to be a meditation upon freedom of the pathetic, painful life of the hunchback. The hunchback seems to go to the park for spending his day in a leisurely way. But symbolically, the park is life itself. The trees also symbolize the tree of life; the water is also the flow of life. In terms of this mode of imagery, the coming of the hunchback into the park is the birth itself, signaled by yet another symbolism of the birth imagery in "opening of the garden lock".

The solitary hunchback comes to the park, quiet early with its opening and stays there seeking to enjoy the beauty of the nature in the park till it gets closed - that is till he dies. The hunchback experiences the melancholic calmness in the park, which is reflected in the frequency of the open dark vowels 'a' and 'o' in the stressed position in the words like 'park', 'solitary', propped', 'garden', 'lock', somber' and 'dark' etc., in the first stanza. In the park, the hunchback mixes up with the water, trees, of the town boys in the park. He is disturbed by their mimicry. The hunchback is deformed. He is insulted, teased and chased by the truant boys of the town. In the fifth line of the third stanza, the natural, subtle pace of the boys is reflected by the natural, subtle rhythm.

The town boys, leaving the hunchback alone, enjoy themselves having played differently. On the other hand, the hunchback being alone without any disturbance takes advantage of the boys' going away; he begins to have daydreams. He creates a fantasy image of a young woman who is tall and as straight as elm for the night. This seems to be a kind of substitution of his crooked body. The daydream, which is creative and full of happiness, is described with quiet, slow and lyrical music of the following lines of the poem. "Made all day until bell time/ A woman figure without fault" (Lines, 31-32). But the reality begins when the park shuts the hunchback out and the boys chase him to the dog kennel.

The explosive consonant sound 'k' has been frequently used from the beginning to the end of the poem in different words like 'hunchback', 'dark', 'kennel' etc. This frequent use of 'k' sound adds to the mood of the harshness of his real life. Thus, the contrasting sound patterns of the poem helps to mark the different between the hunchback's daydream (i.e. ideal life) and his real life. The poet has also used only two punctuation marks i.e. full stop in the end of stanzas II and IV before the end of the poem. All the lines of the poem run-on. This lack of pauses in the poem enhances the long, meandering poetic statements reflecting the hunchback's imaginative wandering.

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Shrestha, Roma. "The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 4 Nov. 2013,