In 1954, one year after Dylan Thomas’ untimely death on November 9th, 1953, Under Milk Wood, a “play for voices” which describes the citizens of the fictitious town Llareggub (a name which, spelt backwards, is “bugger all”), was published.
From the beginning, the audience is called to listen in on the dreams and innermost thoughts of the people living in Llareggub, people who soon appear as dreadfully and, to a certain extent realistically, eccentric characters. While the play presents us with various somewhat appalling oddities, the townsfolk we are introduced to throughout Thomas’ work each possess traits of human society’s own individuals.Under Milk Wood does, at first, appear to condemn humanity as each character’s sins and crimes are revealed.
However, as the play progresses further, each person’s crimes appear less terrible and one finds oneself accepting each of Llareggub’s townsfolk as “not wholly bad or good” (p. 18) in that, despite (or perhaps due to) their imperfections, they are interesting and lovable to the same extent to which they are bizarre and mad. Under Milk Wood is, therefore, a depiction of the truth and Dylan Thomas’ colourful and vivid work at the same time recognizes our faults and celebrates them.Under Milk Wood is made up of characters that are equally intriguing as the play itself as they each demonstrate both flaws and virtues to much the same level as we do. Polly Garter, for example, appears at first to be simply a looser, free and perhaps even immoral woman. However, throughout the play we learn that she is simply a woman who is happy with her way of life, loves the men she has relations with and who states “Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God? “(p.
8) Polly Garter then emerges a joyful and amiable woman who is essentially benevolent and humane despite her loose nature.Polly does, therefore and much like the other characters, present both faults the audience feels compelled to have an aversion to and worthy virtues the audience is drawn to. It is greatly for the reason that Polly Garter is at the end of Under Milk Wood seen to posses both good and bad qualities that the audience feels able to relate to her and the other characters, thus making them socially realistic. Hence, throughout Under Milk Wood it may be noted that no matter how great the faults of Llareggub’s townspeople may be, the play as a whole justifies each of their crimes.
Similarly, taking into consideration that Dylan Thomas’ play may indeed be “an indictment of human society”, Dylan Thomas must therefore be presenting his readers with their own flaws and in doing so condemning them. On the other hand, towards the end of his work he is essentially asking us to excuse and forgive flaws and to tolerate them as they keep our lives from being dull and lacklustre.While Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard is an unpleasant woman who in her dreams tortures her two dead husbands and when awake rejects a boarder for her bed and breakfast claiming “I don’t want persons in my nice clean rooms breathing all over the chairs (…
) and putting their feet on my carpets and sneezing on my china and sleeping in my sheets…
” (p. 10), she is essentially accepted by the rest of Llareggub’s eccentric inhabitants and we may (despite her less commendable traits) find ourselves regarding her warmly as she is evidently fond of the two husbands she torments so much.Therefore, although Dylan Thomas does in fact criticize society’s behaviour, he also celebrates it for being so wonderfully senseless, interesting and in many ways amusing.