An Analysis of Extraordinary Little Cough

An Analysis of Extraordinary Little Cough

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An Analysis of Extraordinary Little Cough

 
The text written by Dylan Thomas is an interesting semi-autobiographical one, that may seem to be a simple piece of prose at a first glance,  but goes a lot deeper,  by playing with the language,  and cultural peculiarities.

      One of the things that distinguishes this text from a lot of his others,  is the fact that it is partially written in a narrative form.  The author takes two roles in this piece of prose.  Some of the time he takes on the role of a narrator,  and is telling the story,  as if he were telling the reader about something that happened to him as a child.

"As I bent down,  three lumps of sugar fell from my blazer pocket."

However,  in other parts of the story,  he also takes on the part of a character in the book.  Then he slips out of his role as narrator,  and takes over the character of  the boy who can't seem to handle girls in a way,  that would make him very popular with them.

"You've got a beautiful name."

Another thing that makes this passage so interesting is the fact that the author uses a semi-colon instead of a full-stop in his sentences.  This gives the text a certain amount of continuity,  and thus makes it more enjoyable to read.


" Their arms and legs and throats were brown as berries;  I could see that when they laughed their teeth were white;  they stepped onto the beach (...)"


The exception to this,  are the monologues between the various characters (especially between a boy and a girl).  Here the sentences on the whole,  seem to be very short,  sharp,  and almost comical.  Dylan Thomas does this to emphasise the insecurity between the different sexes,  and to bring out the idea that we are reading about children in puberty,  where they are confronted with many problems,  such as discovering the opposite sex.


"oh!  it's just ordinary."

"Shall I see you again?"

"If you want to."

 
These short sentences are also to be seen in line twenty,  where the author leaves a sentence all by itself on that line.  Short sentences,  like in the dialogues help to emphasise the awkwardness between boy and girl at this age,  and underline the style used in the dialogues between the two sexes.
 

"The cap dropped at her feet"

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Dylan Thomas also keeps up the rhythm of the text by leaving out a word,  where one might usually put on.  An example of this would be in line twenty-four,  where he purposely misses out the word "that",  so that the flow of the text is not interrupted.

 
"Or I could have stayed at a distance,  and would have been better still (...)"


The language in this text also plays a very important part.  Most noticeable is that when the author slips into his narrative role,  the language used is very proper English.

 
"I could have swept the ground with my cap,  kissed my hand gaily,  called them senoritas,  and made them smile without tolerance."

 

On the other hand,  when he takes over the part of one of the characters,  the language changes to a more colloquial form,  typical for children of that age.  This makes the various scenarios more realistic,  and help the reader build up a picture in ones minds eye,  and maybe even recall similar in ones own life as a pubescent child of that age.  This probably being one of the most attention drawing factors in the passage.  The fact that many people can see a mirror image of themselves in these characters,  sparks up the readers interest,  and makes him or her want to persevere.

 

"Speak to them quickly,  before they go away!"

 

Dylan Thomas uses a kind of poetic description of the characters,  and what they are doing (or trying to do).  An example for this is in line five and line thirteen.

 

"(...) admiring the sunset with little attention (...)"

 

Here is trying to show the reader that the girls are trying to look pretty,  and are trying to draw attention to themselves.  However they are doing it in a subtle way,  and are using the beauty of nature to unfold their own beauty.  They aren't really interested in the sunset (hence the contradiction of them admiring it with little attention),  but just want to lure the boys into talking to them.


"(...) distinguished piece and quite sixteen (...)"


In this sentence the Dylan Thomas wants the reader to realise on of the most important aspects in puberty...trying to look older.  By calling Gwnyth quite sixteen.  This being the age where one can some what see oneself as grown up.  It's the age where you start to have certain rights,  and where other younger children tend to look up at you.

The fact that he describes her as being quite sixteen is also relevant,  as he gives her this kind of unapproachable title.  She is sixteen and thus a sophisticated girl,  whereas he is just a little child in comparison.  She would never want to have anything to do with him.

            A last thing that helps the reader imagine that this is a real story about a group of children going through puberty etc.,  is found in line forty-seven.


"He never washes or combs or anything."


In this sentence we can see how the boy runs out of arguments,  and just adds an "anything" onto the end.  The extravagant,  and exaggerated form of arguing is typical of children,  and added together with the rather simple dialogues between the children completes Dylan Thomas' effort,  to make the characters seem real,  and not like a poor attempt to write about children.

            However,  other than the language,  it is also interesting to look at the cultural aspects of the poem.  The text contains a mixture of words and phrases that are typical to Wales (the authors home),  and yet it also seems to be quite a universal piece of writing that one could understand,  if one had no knowledge of the Wales,  and it's culture.

            More obvious hints,  that tell the reader that this story is taking place in Wales,  are the names of some of the characters.  Gwyneth being the one that sticks out the most.  However,  most of the characters tend to have very universal names,  that could be given to any child.  George,  Dan,  and Jean being examples of this.  The only name that does seem to differ completely from all of the others is "Valentino".  The author explains he (as a child) came about that name,  whilst trying to instigate a conversation with Jean.


"(...) as I stood like Valentino on the edge of the bright (...)."


Valentino was a great heart-throb from silent films,  in around the mid nineteen twenties.

Another interesting thing Dylan Thomas does to bring out the personality of the characters is to give the two bullies, appropriate names.  Brazell and Scully sound like rather rough names,  and are indeed rather rough characters,  who also come from a lower class.  And consequentially the reader finds out that these two characters are somewhat,  and don't have any problem's socialising with girls.

            Otherwise Dylan Thomas' story is very much like an account of a past experience that he felt awkward about at the time,  but has grown up to realise that this is a typical trademark of growing up.  he uses a variety of linguistical forms to emphasise this,  and often plays with the thought of boys,  but deliberately seems to avoid commenting on the thoughts of the girls.  This would mainly be because of the fact that a boy cannot really understand what a girl feels during this stage in her life,  and that any comment made on it,  would be pure speculation,  and steal the reality of the text.  What he did pick up on was the idea of girls being more mature at this age,  and expresses this in a number of ways.  The best example being where he offers Jean an apple,  but she says that she would rather have a cigarette.  In the last sentence he then wraps up the thoughts in this piece of prose with a single word,  telling the reader once again that boys cannot understand girls.


" 'Woman!' I said."


Works Cited and Consulted

Bold, Alan, ed. Dylan Thomas: Craft or Sullen Art. London: Vision Press, 1990.

Paananen, Victor N. "Dylan Thomas As Social Writer: Toward a Caudwellian Reading." Nature, Society, and Thought 3:2 (1990): 167-178.

Thomas, Dylan. Collected Poems 1934-1953. Ed. Walford Davies and Ralph Maud. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1988.

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