Death as a Motif Discussion
For this week’s discussion, please read the works by Dylan Thomas found your textbook pages 228-234,
Dylan Thomas uses death as a motif in all four poems revealing the family member’s unique struggle in a patient’s battle with terminal illness. After examining each of the four poems, discuss in 250 words or more how exploring symbolism and imagery presented in the work of Dylan Thomas might encourage or otherwise facilitate communication between the caregiver and the patient. Death as a Motif Discussion.
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A SUMMER TRAGEDY arna bont e mps Old Jeff Patton, the black share farmer, fumbled with his bow tie. His fingers trembled and the high stiff collar pinched his throat. A fellow loses his hand for such vanities after thirty or forty years of simple life. Once a year, or maybe twice if there’s a wedding among his kinfolks, he may spruce up; but generally fancy clothes do nothing but adorn the wall of the big room and feed the moths. That had been Jeff Patton’s experience. He had not worn his stiff-bosomed shirt more than a dozen times in all his married life. His swallowtailed coat lay on the bed beside him, freshly brushed and pressed, but it was as full of holes as the overalls in which he worked on weekdays. The moths had used it badly.
Jeff twisted his mouth into a hideous toothless grimace as he contended with the obstinate bow. He stamped his good foot and decided to give up the struggle. “Jennie,” he called. “What’s that, Jeff ?” His wife’s shrunken voice came out of the adjoining room like an echo. It was hardly bigger than a whisper. “I reckon you’ll have to help me wid this heah bow tie, baby,” he said meekly. “Dog if I can hitch it up.” Her answer was not strong enough to reach him, but presently the old woman came to the door, feeling her way with a stick. She had a wasted, dead-leaf appearance. Her body, as scrawny and gnarled as a string bean, seemed less than nothing in the ocean of frayed and faded petticoats that surrounded her. These hung an inch or two above the tops of her heavy unlaced shoes and showed little grotesque piles where the stockings had fallen down from her negligible legs. “You oughta could do a heap mo’ wid a thing like that’n me—beingst as you got yo’ good sight.” “Looks like I oughta could,” he admitted. “But ma fingers is gone democrat on me. I get all mixed up in the looking glass and can’t tell wicha way to twist the devilish thing.”
Jennie sat on the side of the bed and old Jeff Patton got down on one knee while she tied the bow knot. It was a slow and painful ordeal for each of them in this position. Jeff ’s bones cracked, his knee ached, and it was only after a half dozen attempts that Jennie worked a semblance of a bow into the tie. “I got to dress maself now,” the old woman whispered. “These is ma old shoes and stockings, and I ain’t so much as unwrapped ma dress.” “Well, don’t worry ’bout me no mo’, baby,” Jess said. “That ’bout finishes me. All I gotta do now is slip on that old coat ’n ves’ an’ I’ll be fixed to leave.” Jennie disappeared again through the dim passage into the shed room. Being blind was no handicap to her in that black hole. Jeff heard the cane placed against the wall beside the door and knew that his wife was on easy ground. He put on his coat, took a battered top hat from the bedpost and hobbled to the front door. He was ready to travel. As soon as Jennie could get on her Sunday shoes and her old black silk dress, they would start. Outside the tiny log house, the day was warm and mellow with sunshine. A host of wasps were humming with busy excitement in the trunk of a dead sycamore. Gray squirrels were searching through the grass for hickory nuts and blue jays were in the trees, hopping from branch to branch. Pine woods stretched away to the left like a black sea. Among them were scattered scores of log houses like Jeff’s, houses of black share farmers. Cows and pigs wandered freely among the trees. There was no danger of loss. Each farmer knew his own stock and knew his neighbor’s as well as he knew his neighbor’s children. Down the slope to the right were the cultivated acres on which the colored folks worked. They extended to the river, more than two miles away, and they were today green with the unmade cotton crop. A tiny thread of a road, which passed directly in front of Jeff ’s place, ran through these green fields like a pencil mark. Jeff, standing outside the door, with his absurd hat in his left hand, surveyed the wide scene tenderly. He had been forty-five years on these acres. He loved them with the unexplained affection that others have for the countries to which they belong. The sun was hot on his head, his collar still pinched his throat, and the Sunday clothes were intolerably hot. Jeff transferred the hat to his right hand and began fanning with it. Suddenly the whisper that was Jennie’s voice came out of the shed room. “You can bring the car round front whilst you’s waitin’,” it said feebly. There was a tired pause; then it added, “I’ll soon be fixed to go.” “A’right, baby,” Jeff answered. “I’ll get it in a minute.” But he didn’t move. A thought struck him that made his mouth fall open. The mention of the car brought to his mind, with new intensity, the trip he and Jennie were about to take. Fear came into his eyes; excitement took his breath. Lord, Jesus! “Jeff . . . O Jeff,” the old woman’s whisper called. He awakened with a jolt. “Hunh, baby?” …
Dylan Thomas explores death as a motif in all four of his poems, revealing the unique struggles of family members during a patient’s terminal illness. The symbolism and imagery presented in Thomas’s works could encourage or facilitate communication between the caregiver and the patient. For example, in the poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London,” Thomas uses powerful imagery to represent death as a natural process, encouraging the idea that death is a part of life, and it is not something to be feared. This perspective can help caregivers to communicate with patients, helping them to accept and cope with the reality of their impending death.
In “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” Thomas presents death as an inevitable part of life, but he also encourages resistance and fighting against it. This perspective can encourage patients to fight for their lives, giving them hope and strength, while also encouraging caregivers to support and fight for their patients’ lives. In “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” Thomas presents death as a transition into a new phase of life, encouraging the idea of an afterlife and offering hope for both patients and caregivers.
In “Fern Hill,” Thomas uses powerful imagery to depict the passage of time and the fleeting nature of life, encouraging both patients and caregivers to appreciate the time they have together and make the most of it. Overall, exploring the symbolism and imagery in Thomas’s works can facilitate communication between caregivers and patients, offering new perspectives on life, death, and the inevitability of mortality.
Thomas, D. (1952). Collected poems, 1934-1952. New Directions.