Under Milk Wood

by

Dylan Thomas

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Captain Cat Character Analysis

Captain Cat is a blind, elderly sea captain. He can recognize different characters by the sound of their footsteps and spends much of the play sitting beside a window and commenting on the townspeople as they pass by. Cat is one of the play’s most important characters, since he often functions as a third narrator, supplementing First Voice’s and Second Voice’s narrative direction with his insider’s perspective. Because Cat has been around for so long, he possesses an intimate knowledge of Llareggub and its people. Captain Cat is tormented by dreams of former shipmates who drowned at sea, as well as his deceased former lover, Rosie Probert. More broadly, Captain Cat is plagued by a mournful nostalgia for the past: for a time when he sailed the sea with “blue and bright” [seeing] eyes, and when he could be with his departed friends and comrades. Cat’s dreams pain him because he knows that they reflect a world that only exists in his memories, and that these memories will erode with the passage of time. Cat indirectly guides the listener by functioning as a narrator, but his blindness positions him as a stand-in for the listener, as well: both Cat and the listener must rely on their sense of sound to orient themselves within Llareggub and become acquainted with its people.

Captain Cat Quotes in Under Milk Wood

The Under Milk Wood quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Cat or refer to Captain Cat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New Directions edition of Under Milk Wood published in 2019.
Under Milk Wood Quotes

[Silence]

FIRST VOICE (Very softly)

To begin at the beginning: It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible–black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’–and–rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to–night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Captain Cat, Second Voice
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

SECOND VOICE. Mrs. Rose Cottage’s eldest, Mae, peals off her pink–and–white skin in a furnace in a tower in a cave in a waterfall in a wood and waits there raw as an onion for Mister Right to leap up the burning tall hollow splashes of leaves like a brilliantined trout.

MAE ROSE COTTAGE. (Very close and softly, drawing out the words)
Call me Dolores
Like they do in the stories.

Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

You can tell it’s Spring.

Related Characters: Captain Cat (speaker), Organ Morgan, First Voice, Second Voice
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Can’t hear what the women are gabbing round the pump. Same as ever. Who’s having a baby, who blacked whose eye, seen Polly Garter giving her belly an airing, there should be a law, seen Mrs. Beynon's new mauve jumper, it’s her old grey jumper dyed, who’s dead, who’s dying, there’s a lovely day, oh the cost of soapflakes!

Related Characters: Captain Cat (speaker), Polly Garter, Mrs. Beynon, First Voice
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

CAPTAIN CAT. That’s Polly Garter. (Softly) Hullo, Polly my love, can you hear the dumb goose–hiss of the wives as they huddle and peck or flounce at a waddle away? Who cuddled you when? Which of their gandering hubbies moaned in Milk Wood for your naughty mothering arms and body like a wardrobe, love? Scrub the floors of the Welfare Hall for the Mothers’ Union Social Dance, you’re one mother won't wriggle her roly poly bum or pat her fat little buttery feet in that wedding–ringed holy to–night though the waltzing breadwinners snatched from the cosy smoke of the Sailors Arms will grizzle and mope.

Related Characters: Captain Cat (speaker), Polly Garter, First Voice, Second Voice
Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Captain Cat, at his window thrown wide to the sun and the clippered seas he sailed long ago when his eyes were blue and bright, slumbers and voyages; ear–ringed and rolling, I Love You Rosie Probert tattooed on his belly, he brawls with broken bottles in the fug and babel of the dark dock bars, roves with a herd of short and good time cows in every naughty port and twines and souses with the drowned and blowzy–breasted dead. He weeps as he sleeps and sails.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Captain Cat, Rosie Probert, Second Voice
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Remember her.
She is forgetting.
The earth which filled her mouth
Is vanishing from her.
Remember me.
I have forgotten you.
I am going into the darkness of the
darkness for ever.
I have forgotten that I was ever born.

Related Characters: Rosie Probert (speaker), Captain Cat
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Blind Captain Cat climbs into his bunk. Like a cat, he sees in the dark. Through the voyages of his tears, he sails to see the dead.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Captain Cat, Rosie Probert, Second Voice
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

FIRST VOICE. […] And Mr. Waldo drunk in the dusky wood hugs his lovely Polly Garter under the eyes and rattling tongues of the neighbours and the birds, and he does not care. He smacks his live red lips. But it is not his name that Polly Garter whispers as she lies under the oak and loves him back. Six feet deep that name sings in the cold earth.

POLLY GARTER. (Sings)
But I always think as we tumble into bed
Of little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead.

Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Under Milk Wood LitChart as a printable PDF.
Under Milk Wood PDF

Captain Cat Character Timeline in Under Milk Wood

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Cat appears in Under Milk Wood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Under Milk Wood
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
...town is sound asleep. The darkness of night renders the houses as “blind as Captain Cat,” and it’s quiet enough to “hear the dew falling.” First Voice addresses the listener directly,... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
First Voice urges the listener to listen as “time passes.” He describes Captain Cat, the blind sea-captain, asleep in his bunk on his ship, the S. S. Kidwelly. Second... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...cock crows, the sky grows lighter, and First Voice directs the listener’s attention to Captain Cat, who rings the townhall bell to awaken the sleeping citizens, which he does every day.... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...Reverend Eli Jenkins continues to compose poetry, and Lord Cut-Glass tends to the clocks. Captain Cat sits in the galley of his schooner and eats fried fish. (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...the sounds of daily business: of syrup being sold, farmers driving animals to market. Captain Cat sits at his window and listens to the sounds of children running to school; he... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
Captain Cat hears Willy Nilly arrive at the School House, where he relays to Mrs. Pugh all... (full context)
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
Captain Cat continues to listen to the townspeople. He overhears Mrs. Floyd and Nogood Boyo talking about... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Captain Cat hears organ music in the distance. He notes the early start to Organ Morgan’s practice... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
When the gossiping women around the pump fall silent, Captain Cat knows that Polly Garter is near, and he wonders which of the women’s husbands had... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
Captain Cat hears a cock crow, which means that the morning is already half over. The organ... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...nice their legs are. Second Voice observes how Spring has an opposite effect on Captain Cat, who is overcome with a sense of nostalgia. Meanwhile, Mary Ann Sailors looks out the... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...bell rings, and children pour out of the School House, singing as they run. Captain Cat listens to the children and sings a song about “Johnnie Crack and Flossie Snail,” who... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Captain Cat sits by his window and listens to the schoolchildren play. The girls tease the boys,... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention to Captain Cat, who is sleeping beside his window, which faces the sea he traversed long ago, before... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Second Voice interjects to describe one voice Cat remembers most clearly: young Rosie Probert, whose name is tattooed on his stomach, and who... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
A child passing by Captain Cat’s window with her mother sees the captain crying, but she becomes distracted by the sight... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...in Pembroke City who suffers until a married woman propositions him for sex. Meanwhile, Captain Cat crawls into bed and commences another night of troubled dreams about the dead and drowned,... (full context)