The Hunchback In The Park is ostensibly the story of an isolated, deformed man who lives in a park. It chronicles the cruelty that this man had to endure and makes a reader think about how they treat people and how their actions towards those who are different could make those people feel. Thomas does a superb job of creating sympathy for the poems eponymous “hero” and in doing so really makes the reader consider what life is like for the character and by extension others that are different in some way.
Form and Tone
The poem is a sombre, sad piece. It is presented in seven stanzas, all of which are equal in length, containing six lines each. Despite this highly organised structure the poem has a disjointed feel due to the long sentences. The poem is littered with enjambment lines and actually only has three full sentences in total. This is possibly to help emphasise the fact that on the face of it the Hunchback’s life is simple, but underneath what everybody sees there is a complex human being with a wealth of emotions that he struggles to deal with.
The Hunchback In The Park Analysis
Despite the poem, which you can read in full here, being ostensibly about the cruelty that the poems protagonist has to endure it is interesting how the narrator still refers to him as the hunchback. There are a wealth of partial end-rhymes in this stanza (water/enter, lock/dark). This helps with reading the poem. The partial rhymes act as an alternative to punctuation. This device serves to represent how different the character is from the “norm”.
The first two lines of this stanza evoke images of a prisoner this is not coincidental. The suggestion is that being different in the way that he is makes the hunchback feel like a hostage. This is followed up by commenting on how kids cruelly tease the man. Filling his drinking cup with gravel. The man is then described sleeping in a kennel. The suggestion being that he doesn’t even feel human due to his situation. This rapidly increases a readers sympathy for this character.
Once again partial rhymes are used throughout to give an ad hoc punctuation. Thomas uses a classic tool, much used in the romantic era, by comparing the poems eponymous lead to the natural world he helps create a positive image of the hunchback. Examples of this are: describing his arrival at the park as bird-like and his sitting down like water. When he is addressed by truanting school kids the hunchback flees, he is clearly not comfortable with the way he is treated. This creates further sympathy as we see this person is clearly upset deeply by how he is treated.
Once again Thomas evokes the natural world as the hunchback attempts to escape his tormentors. It would appear that this character is mocked no matter what he does. It is clearly not just the local children that mock him and make his life difficult though as we see introduced here, the park keeper clearly does not like him being in the park. It does somewhat raise the question of why the hunchback visits the park if it causes him so much hardship.
Here the real world and metaphorical mix together. The old dog-sleeper is a nickname for the hunchback himself who was compared to a dog in the second stanza. It is clear he has temporarily found refuge with the swans. Another nod to nature, perhaps to highlight that whilst the man may be different he is every bit as beautiful as the rest of the animals/plants. The boys are likened to tigers and this is undoubtedly to highlight their predatory nature whilst staying true to the natural-imagery.
The first line of this stanza effectively intimates that the hunchback has to endure these cruel games all day until the school day is done and the kids who have been truanting then have to depart. The hunchback then discovers a woman and compares her to himself. She is everything he is not. She is described as being without fault and straight and tall. This stanza suggests that the hunchback has a longing for a relationship with somebody like that “that she might stand in the night” suggests he wants companionship. He wants somebody to be in the park with him when the gates are closed at the night. The fact that this is unlikely is an example of dramatic irony and just adds to the sadness of the stanza.
The hunchback continues his longing, but reflects on the days events. How it is a mix of the beauty of the park with it’s shrubs, trees, lakes etc. and the “wild boys”. It is clear that the people of the park ruin a place of beauty for the hunchback. Why he continues to frequent the park is left ambiguous. Perhaps he stays within the park because it has a beauty that he cannot find within himself?
It is clear he is considered by most of the other characters in the poem to be subhuman. There are no less than three allusions to him being dog-like. Plus when he is talked about, he is referred to as “mister”, as if he is not deemed worthy of having a proper name. This all adds to the tragic nature of the hunchback’s predicament, presumably homeless, would he have anywhere else to go other than the park?
About Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas was a Maverick and very famous Welsh Poet. He died tragically young in 1953, aged just thirty nine, due to his abuse of alcohol. He wrote exclusively in English despite his parents both being fluent Welsh speakers and in spite of this he is still considered to be one of Wales’ greatest poets.