Table Of Contents
1. The new way
2. Childhood memories
3. The story
4. Style of writing
I have chosen the short story A Visit to Grandpa’s from Dylan Thomas’ book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog because for me it reflects a close relation between himself as a child and the countryside of Wales and how he felt and what he experienced there.
In my first section I want to point out the changes in Dylan Thomas’s writing and how the story A Visit to Grandpa’s is connected with his own life and the time when he grow up. Linked to his own life then comes a kind of comparison of his childhood and our, the reader’s, memory of childhood will follow.
In the main part I give a short description of the story and an introduction to the different characters. In connection with the description of the story I point out important things about atmosphere and characters in the narration and I want to connect parts of the story to the appearing situation and atmosphere. In addition to the explanation of the plot the occurring dreams will be mentioned and I try to explain what they might mean.
The last part about the style of writing deals with the way Dylan Thomas wrote the short story A Visit to Grandpa’s. Then in the conclusion I want to bring together what I have said before and try an attempt why an adult reader still understands the feelings and problems in this child story.
1. The new way
I think it is very important to note that the book marks a change in Dylan Thomas’s prose style, and indeed the subject matter of his narratives. He turned from the style and preoccupations of his earlier stories to the very different prose of the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. The early fiction of Dylan Thomas was influenced by the “climate of Freudian psychology, its expressions echoing biblical language and rhythms, it is dominated by the sexual and death-haunted pre-occupations of an inwardly turned and highly poetic imagination. The writing now explores rites whereby the natural world unites the living and the dead, and registers the passing from innocence to experience.” In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog he abandoned his former verbal and imaginative extravagance and turned to autobiography in the shape of fiction.
Dylan Thomas’ book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog was published in April 1940, and “The ten stories were written during 1938 and 1939.” From those ten short stories A Visit to Grandpa’s was the first published story, it was printed in New English Weekly in March 1938. The first suggestion to write some prose about Thomas’s youth came from Richard Church, Thomas’ publisher at that time at Dent’s, who in 1936 proposed “a tale of the world where your early years have been spent.”
The book was as Thomas wrote later “a provincial autobiography” and consists of “short, straightforward stories about Swansea”. All stories in this book were written during the late 1930s as mentioned before and reflect and explore the historical context of that time in his life. But it is difficult to place the story A Visit to Grandpa’s into an exact context of Dylan’s life. Because
the story has been taken as an account of D. J.’s [Thomas’ father] father [i.e. Thomas parental grandfather], Thomas the Guard. According to Florence
[Thomas’ mother] it was about Thomas the Guard’s father - D.J.’s grandfather,
William - who lived with his son and daughter-in-law in Johnstown until he died.
That was all long before Dylan Marlais Thomas was born, but D.J. told
Dylan about him as a child.
So it is not a self-experienced story but still he knew enough to tell it as if he, or a young boy like him, really had been there on one of his visits.
2. Childhood memories
In the stories of the book Thomas drew extensively upon his memories of childhood:
“Through the exact memory he had of his childhood and an extraordinary power to recreate it he released a spring of comedy, both of character and situation, which had been hidden from himself because it was at first too close to his experience.”
That can start the explanation why some of Dylan Thomas' best-loved works are those pieces which evoke memories of his childhood - but why is this so?
Probably because every adult shares the common bond of experiencing childhood
and owning personal memories, which, although infinitely variable between us in their intensity and nature, help to form what we are as mature people just, as surely as the content and richness of the soil determines the character and strength of a grown tree.
As we peer back into our own childhood we sift and filter our memories so that the ones portraying our contentment or delight predominate - we easily remember sunny holidays, visits, happy places, treats, Christmases, presents. We recall the relatives who loved us as children, their closeness and kindness, their voices, smells and faces. We remember as yesterday Sunday lunch times, beaches and our long-dead dog or rabbit, but things like getting up on a rainy Monday morning are rather hard to recall. We all therefore have our own sanitised nostalgia - melancholy perhaps, sentimental certainly so that when a masterly creative talent such as Thomas chronicles beautiful, rose-coloured childhood situations his work instantly chimes and rhymes with us. "Yes", we mutter, "that was like it was; that could be me; that was how I used to feel; I knew people like those people."
Dylan Thomas uses the rich background of his schoolboy and adolescent memories in many of his short stories and poetic works not only in the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. To understand his attitude towards and description of people, relatives and countryside it is relevant to know that “from his earliest childhood Dylan Thomas lived close to sea and countryside and was deeply receptive to their influence, whether experienced along Swansea bay (...) or the frequently visited Carmarthenshire countryside and coastal villages of Laugharne and Llanstephan.” And so some of the most evocative of these memories recall his childhood holidays with relatives in Carmarthenshire. The story A Visit to Grandpa’s reveals “Dylan’s delight in his holiday visits to west Wales.”
 John Ackerman, A Dylan Thomas Companion, Life, Poetry and Prose; 1991, p.178
 James A. Davies, A Reference Companion to Dylan Thomas; 1998, p. 173
 In Walford Davies, Dylan Thomas Early Prose Writings; 1971, p. viii
 In a letter from Dylan Thomas to Vernon Watkins, Bashford March 21 1938.
 Paul Ferris, Dylan Thomas; 1978, p. 168n.
 John Ackerman, Dylan Thomas His Life and Work; 1964, p.104
 John Ackerman, A Dylan Thomas Companion, Life, Poetry and Prose; 1991, p.16
 Ibid. p. 17