Dylan Thomas succeeds in conveying a very strong visual impression in the book ‘Under Milk Wood’, by using many different techniques. The book is ‘a book for voices’, and directed particularly towards radio broadcasting, so when the book is heard, its layout and techniques are much more effective. Thomas is mainly known due to his works of poetry; however, he also enjoyed writing prose. In the book, Thomas achieves a medium, which is intermediate between a play and a poem, which allows and calls for the story to have the characteristics of both.
Examples of his poetry can be found in the discussions between Captain Cat and Rosie Probert. Thomas talks directly to the audience by having a narrative voice called ‘First Voice’, and which keeps the audience’s attention by using a lilting Welsh accent. He changes the mood of the play regularly, simply by change the intensity of the voices. In the book, there are three main voices – First Voice, Second Voice, and Captain Cat. Captain Cat is the main character in the book, and the audience immediately associates with him because he is blind and he is a natural bridge between eye and ear for the listener.Order now
Captain Cat shares his central position with two anonymous narrators. First Voice is unbiased and only narrates the scene and what is occurring there, rather than Second Voice who narrates the dreams and thoughts of people. Second Voice is a much more personal view of village life in comparison to First Voice who glosses over the people and their lives and talks only about the factual details. Captain Cat and the narrators serve only as an eye for the audience in a certain sense. The play, whether it is heard or on a stage, is meant of for the ear because it imposes no limits on the imagination.
There is only one other character who is marginally more important than all the remaining voices in the story, and that is The Guide Book. The guide does not say a vast amount in the book, however it is an important voice because it tells you the details of the town, for example ‘Less than five hundred souls inhabit the three quaint streets’. The view of town life that is given to you by the guide life is very much different to that of the people who live there. It uses typical ‘guide book language’ to try and sell the town of Milk Wood.
Thomas uses very auditory language, because it is directed at listeners rather than actors or readers. He uses language, which stimulates the brain and its imagination. A few good examples of the language are ‘You can hear the dew falling’ and ‘hushed town breathing’. The language is very appealing to the ear and not only does it create a visual image in the brain, it also makes you feel like you are there because it tells you what you can hear and smell as well as see. The sentence structure varies throughout the book.
Sometimes short choppy sentences are used such as ‘Time Passes. Listen. Time Passes’ which contrasts enormously to the long descriptive sentences, which often include lists of descriptive phrases. The main techniques that Thomas uses in the book are ways in which aural and imaginary atmospheres are created perfectly. He frequently uses alliteration such as ‘asleep in his bunk in the seashelled, ship-in-bottled, shipshapee cabin’, and assonance, like when first voice is describing the town ‘Down to the sloeblack, sloe, black, crowblack fishing boat bobbing sea’.
Similies, metaphors and personification are also used in order to emphasise the images, ‘the houses are blind as moles’ and ‘the shops in mourning’. Throughout the book, there is a strong use of verbs and adjectives to help the listener to imagine the setting and its happenings. As the contrasting voices are heard, small details which to not have any state of importance by themselves, add an enormous amount to the final setting because they link together to form one large picture.
The text is rich in suggestions and atmosphere and challenges and provokes the audience in to thinking about what they are listening to interpret it for themselves. The last section of the book (Evening) is disproportionately shorter than the other sections of the book, and this is due to the fact that Thomas passed away. The Evening section was going to contain a number of ballads, of which only one was completed (Mr Waldo’s Song) and submitted.
The usage of music is a large part of the play because it helps the audience to imagine village life – the songs were not performed in a polished and prepared manner, but simply like it was a village person who was going about their usual routine and singing to themselves. In the book, ‘Under Milk Wood’, Dylan Thomas succeeds in conveying a very strong visual impression, by using many different techniques. The books layout and techniques are much more effective when the book is book is heard because it is ‘a book for voices’, and directed particularly towards radio broadcasting.