Ninth Grade Fitz English
A Children’s Imagination
A Child’s Christmas In Wales Literary Analysis Essay
— Albert Einstein
The imagination of Christmas sparkles in children’s imagination and in families’ love when they come together. Dylan Thomas’s heartwarming tale, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, paints an unforgettable picture of Christmas through a young boy’s recollection of the holiday. His vivid imagination and playful sense of wonder drive the story, reminding readers of the innocence and enthusiasm with which children approach life, and the importance of enjoying simple pleasures at Christmas and beyond. By choosing a child narrator and highlighting only children’s experiences in the story, Thomas sends his readers a message that the playful perspective of children is equally important to that of adults and should be an opportunity for reflection for how we approach life.
From the beginning, Thomas made a deliberate literary choice when he avoided establishing a traditional plot line for the story. Instead, he has the boy tell his story by jumping from one recollection to the next, in much the same way that a child’s mind and body often do. In the first scene, the boy’s memory is hazy like a child’s might be over time, noting that it’s snowing like it always did on Christmas: “I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.” His confusion leaves the impression that it was snowing a lot, and that was an exciting experience for a young boy. The accuracy of this detail in his memory is less important to him than being thrilled by the chance to see and play in the snow. It is the feeling that matters most to him. The boy’s lively imagination also appears when he and a friend were in Mrs. Prothero’s garden playing a “hunting” game with her cats, which he imagines as “sleek and long as jaguars -- and horrible whiskered, spitting and snarling.” The boys were so immersed in stalking and hurling snowballs at the cats that they didn’t even realize that Mrs. Prothero was yelling for help because her house was on fire. Once they realize what’s happening, they run toward the action, ready to use their snowballs on the fire. Unlike panicked adults, they brought their playfulness into a serious situation because in their imaginations, they'd become firefighting heroes with their snowballs: “This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.” Again, it is the boy’s vivid imagination that allows Thomas to create the story’s most memorable scene. And when he goes Christmas caroling, his imagination kicks into amusing overdrive once more:
“At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves.”
The drama and adventure dreamed up in the boy’s vivid imagination continue to turn the most basic holiday experience, like caroling, into a humorous voyage to confront webfooted men wheezing in caves. The boy is always ready for adventure, whether real or make-believe, and he seems to be enjoying his time much more than his adult counterparts.
Thomas repeatedly uses the boy’s excitement and imagination to contrast the way adults approach the same circumstance. Readers can relate to the boy’s child-like spirit and remember their own childhood fantasies of Christmas and beyond. Although the story never mentions anything about Santa Claus, as a Christmas story it reinforces the degree of childhood imagination that is needed to believe a man could fly all over the world delivering presents to every child in one night. The boy’s adventures rely on the same kind of child-like imagination, and that is what makes it so enjoyable to read. The boy can easily put himself any place his imagination takes him, and he helps bring the reader back to the warmth and sense of nostalgia of their own childhoods. If Thomas had used an adult narrator, the story would never have the appeal that it does with the boy at its center. My own experience of imagination as a boy was very similar to the boy in the story.
What’s most appealing and enduring about this story is that it captures the idea that our imaginations can take us anywhere we let them. That idea is universal in life and goes far beyond Christmas. Both the boy’s imagination and his actions show that each person — even a child — has the power to transform ordinary moments of their lives into memorable or special ones, and that the attitude we bring to life can add much to our lives.