This passage is describing what Charlie sees at the Miners' Hall in Corrigan on New Year's Eve. Every year 'the whole town' arrives there to get together and watch the fireworks, and therefore it is something that brings the whole town together, even if it is for only one night.
As Charlie arrives at the Miners' Hall, the first thing he hears is 'laughing and chatting'. He notices a lot of activity going on around him, from 'a game of British Bulldog' to 'an enormous bonfire'. The children are having fun playing tag, and their moves are made to appear smooth and quick through the simile, 'like slick fish in a stream'. The alliteration and onomatopoeia, 'raucous ring' adds a body to the description to allow us to feel like we are there. The personification of 'railway sleepers feeding the flames' and 'fireworks … sting the fingers' makes the event come to life, along with the description of smells, 'skewered hoggets … roast … aroma is thick and moreish'. The mention of 'game … stalls … hardware … bonfire … fireworks' shows that there is a lot going on, and this adds excitement to the atmosphere.
This event is supported by the entire town, and it is a chance for people to catch-up with others, eat, and essentially have a good time. The people are compared with a swarm of wasps which gives them an animal-like behavior, 'people spill out … like wasps from a hive', they are large and noisy and like a frightening plague, but as well, it tells us they each have a goal to fulfil. This crowd is made to appear larger when 'the crowd gets thicker' and Charlie notices that 'the beer garden … sprawled … onto the street'. The busyness of the event is furthered when 'line dance … formed … arc of observers', describing the scene as 'happy', and how everyone is having fun together and forgetting their differences and grudges for the night. New Year's Eve is the one event that all of Corrigan's citizens look forward to the most, and everyone is equal.
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