The problem with under milk wood



This careful creation of characters and environments stirs emotion in all cases which ingeniously works and connects effectively with the reader. Under Milk Wood is a play entirely governed by the powerful and well executed use of language tools. Language tools such as cynghanedd are doubly useful as not only do they change the detail and format of any sentence but they also add “Welshness” which is key in the creation of Under Milk Wood. The naming of places is also an important point as Thomas creates all of these so with such a Welsh feel to them.

This is evident as on page 4 Maesgwyn gets a mention; Maesgwyn actually means “fair meadow” which is a common welsh name for a farm. Or even on page 12 “salt lake farm” is mentioned, which in the Welsh village of Laugharn a farm called salt lake exists which again reinforces the general view on Thomas’ influences as the play took form. The use of Welsh names is purposeful as it adds authenticity to the play emphasising the importance of viewing the play as Thomas wished one to.

Furtherly developing the point on the use of Welsh names- Welsh language is used frequently throughout the play. Some good examples of these uses are “Ach y fi” (Jack- Black pg6), “Dear Gwalia” (pg 18) and “The principality of the sky” (pg 17). Firstly what Jack Black said is a common Welsh expletive to show disgust, the pg 18 reference uses a word (principality) which was originally used to describe Wales itself and finally on pg 17 this phrase was originally used to open poems in addressing Wales as a home land.

This constant use of original Welsh association is again paramount to the success of the book and thourghely conveys the intended message that Thomas wants his audience to understand which is he wants them to know its Welsh. In the play Thomas uses a very Welsh technique known as Cynghanedd which is a Welsh literary device using alliteration. It uses internal rhymes to create it’s effects. Literally translated it means “harmony”; using Cynghanedd gives a special structure to a line of poetry or a play, by creating patterns with echoing consonant and vowel sounds.

Cynghanedd comes in three forms- firstly there is Cynghanedd gytsain an example of this in the play is ” Only you can hear the houses Sleeping in the Streets in the Slow deep Salt and Silent black”. As the quotation suggests this type of cynghanedd is multiple alliteration. I think this is very interesting as, as listens to this sentence as the sentence progresses one is almost unnoticeably drawn into the play- this is useful as it makes the audience concentrate.

Secondly, there is Cynghanedd sain the example of this Cynghanedd is “invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing bobbing sea”. This Cynghanedd use is the use of alliteration and rhyme within the same line. The use of rhyme in this is the tone of “sloe, slow and crow” and the alliteration is the repletion of “black”. In my opinion Thomas uses this very well and he masterfully creates and emphasises that the town the audience is about to enter is dark, in the night and extremely peaceful (calm/ flowing alliteration).

The final Cynghanedd is Cynghanedd Lusg- the key example of this is “streaking and needling”, this form of Cynghanedd is of internal rhyme only and works very well as it allows the audience to focus on one particular part of the performance and appreciate that welsh literary devices can be extremely sophisticated. There is not only Welsh literary devices used in the play but there is also some international devices used to a great standard too. One of these common literary techniques is the metaphor.

Which is an image created by saying something else is what you think of it. An example of this within the play is where “ranches buck” is said. That is not as people would expect as they would expect horses to buck, but this is not a mistake that Thomas has made but it pauses the audience and again challenges them to think as to what and why that specific thing as been said and how that is associated to the play. Another one used is alliteration which is when words that are next or near to each other start with the same sound (constant sound).

The example of this is “bible black” which likes the b’s this links makes the audience associate these words together. The connotations of this link create the meaning. Assonance is also used in Under Milk Wood. This is where words are commonly linked by the same vowel sound. For example “streaking and needling” or Sloeblack, Slow, Black” This also emphasises that particular piece of the play however with this form of literary device I think that it also stimulates the reader drawing there concentration to a higher point.

There is also use of personification in the play which is when the author describes something in a human way. An example of this is “ranches buck” which is depicting a building taking the movement of which a hoarse makes. This language technique adds humour to the play though also it adds more meaning to a word and creates questions about that specific line or word. The main place in which all events/ episodes happen in Under Milk Wood is in the village of Llareggub. Llareggub turned back to front spells Buggerall.

This title is rather suggestive and is immediately associated to this essay as the essay is about whether anything happens in the play. This title is very clever as it immediately shows that the play is going to be a technical one and will be particularly sophisticated in its own sense; but still remain Welsh. The Welshness of the play is paramount and this title is of a stereotypical Welsh sound. In my opinion the most lovable character in the play is Mr Pugh as with Mr Pugh you can emphasise with him and his situation.

This situation being that he obviously does not like his wife and he is bored. This is evident as when he is bringing her her tea he says “Hers your arsenic dear, and your weed killer biscuit” and goes on to say things such as I’ve throttled your parakeet, I’ve put cheese in the mouse holes, Here’s your…. …. nice tea dear” This an original piece of humour created by Thomas which could possibly be associated with being a minor comedy sketch. This helps us empathize with Mr Pugh as in the audiences terms his wife would have to be awful for him to even think about poisoning her.

I can also detect some informal repetition within this which is the repetition of theme- the theme being Mr Pugh contemplating weather or weather not to murder his wife. This discreet way of using repetition I think works quite effectively as it reinforces the topic and focal point of that particular episode in the play. The audience’s early suspicions of Mrs Pugh being a not particularly easy to live with person is confirmed momentarily after Mr Pugh’s line, whereby Mrs Pugh says “Too much sugar” as Mr Pugh thoughtfully hands her her morning cup of tea.

From this quotation one can see that Mrs Pugh is a pessimistic, negative and cynical woman who is purposely attempting to find fault with Mr Pugh’s attempts to please her. This casting of Mrs Pugh as this type of person helps create an extreme interest in the audience with these two characters, thus their relationship. Mr Pugh represents a good side and Mrs Pugh represents a bad side so this use of the favourite’s technique grabs the audience into imaginarily supporting Mr Pugh; getting more into the actual play itself.

Mr Pugh appears to be openly a non- connected/ disassociated individual with the community spirit in Llareggub. For example in Llareggub Sinbad and Mr Waldo have a friendship where they commonly chat and even the rest of the townswomen do not talk of Mr Pugh however I think that Mrs Pugh is associated with the cluster of ‘gossipers’. Also Mr Pugh does not appear to openly drink or have an assigned profession or even visit the bar where the rest of the townsmen congregate to discuss various topics.

Mr Pugh’s withdrawal is a clever tool- as it allows Thomas to create a story just out of Mr Pugh focusing the light on this character for short snippets in the story. This is fine to have various plots as it is episodic and it is a sophisticated play so requires on to think. I have mentioned how unalike Mr Pugh is to the rest of the small village of Llareggub however I have not mentioned how alike he is to Mr Cherry Owen. It is apparent that the two men are alike as they both appear to have fun.

In Mr Pugh’s case his hobby is fantasising about poisoning Mrs Pugh and Mr Cherry Owen seems to enjoy getting drunk (happy drunk). I think that this similarity Furtherly develops the understanding of Mr Pugh in the sense of Mr Pugh and Mr Cherry Owen doing things that are frowned upon, aren’t socially acceptable and the fact that both of the characters enjoy it and take it as an extremely fun way to keep themselves stimulated. This constantly prominent attempt to create stimulation is representing how Mr Pugh is board and how Mr Pugh overcomes this by creating his own fun, his own way of having fun.

This also adds a greater level of empathy and understanding towards Mr Pugh from the audience. Mrs Pugh and Mrs Cherry Owen are also alike as they both are controlling people as above the quotation describes how Mr Pugh’s offering of tea to his wife was controlled and rejected; in Mrs Cherry Owens case it is on pg 36 where she says “Then I finally got you into bed”, in context this appears to be a funny short sentence but looked at in a deeper sense it is really just again an example of the wife controlling their husbands.

With the wife’s controlling their husbands this further develops more hatred of Mrs Pugh and turns here into even more of a ‘badie’ in the play- this helps emphasise how ‘unfortunate’ Mr Pugh’s situation is. The contrast I have presented however is not entirely one sided as both couples are also different to each other. An example of this is that of the Cherry Owens relationship generally being very positive, this is apparent as the stage direction reads {Mr and Mrs Cherry Owen laugh delightedly together}; this is not the case with the Pugh’s as with the Pugh’s the relationship is cold and almost seems that they are only ‘married by paper’.

This contrast does keyly underline the sympathy that is suggested to be directed towards Mr Pugh for him having a ‘hard’ life- this is however entirely meant to be this case as this helps us understand Mr Pugh and relate to him involving us more into the play- this is however entirely meant to be this case as this helps us understand Mr Pugh and relate to him involving us more into the play. When looking at ‘Under Milk Wood’ as a whole play- which is completely connected it is easy to understand what the play is about as Thomas manages so well to make every event in the play fit together.

An example of this is found within the Pugh’s relationship where these characters are almost to disbelief continually quarrelling within their relation ship about petty actions- and Mr Pugh’s comical ever growing obsession to kill his wife Mrs Pugh. The play does not follow the normal linear sequence one would expect a play or a novel to follow but is written in an episodic sense which is simply a unity of time and space within this play as the play travels from night to day then to night again.

This does not make the story bland and dull as the play is very interesting because it is a unique representation of a small Welsh village and its inhabitants- It effectively represents the complex world of what is man as a race as within the play it touches on a vast range of human emotions and discovers and tests reactions to various events while maintaining a wry humours side to the play whereby Thomas exercises his vast range of English and welsh tools he can use within his works.

To say that nothing happens within the play would not be an accurate assessment as based on the information I have shown above the play is thriving with multiple opportunities to recognise the immense activity of the play and just how Thomas has created such a clever play within ‘Under Milk Wood’.