Under Milk Wood

by

Dylan Thomas

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First Voice Character Analysis

First Voice is one of Under Milk Wood’s two omniscient narrators. First Voice works with Second Voice to guide the listener through Llareggub, the small seaside village where the play takes place, drawing attention to visual and atmospheric details to set the scene. First Voice and Second Voice’s narrative guidance is especially important in light of the limitations that genre imposes on the play: because Under Milk Wood is a radio drama, the audience relies completely on sound—on voices—to orient itself within the world of the play. First Voice and Second Voice possess intimate knowledge of Llareggub and its citizens, and they share this knowledge with their audience, moving from house to house and describing the townspeople’s dreams in poetic, evocative detail. In this manner, they acquaint the audience with Under Milk Wood’s eccentric cast of characters. First Voice and Second Voice’s narration gives thematic coherence to an otherwise plotless, meandering play, and the narration also imbues the seemingly mundane, unremarkable existences of the play’s characters with psychological complexity. Finally, the narration invites the audience to find beauty and meaning in ordinary life. First Voice and Second Voice take turns narrating. Typically, First Voice introduces a new character or point of focus, and Second Voice interjects, expanding on First Voice’s observation with their own insights. Both voices have access to characters’ innermost thoughts and desires. First Voice and Second Voice speak in a poetic style that illustrates the power of language and storytelling to transform a normal day in a small town into a meaningful portrait of the beauty of ordinary life.

First Voice Quotes in Under Milk Wood

The Under Milk Wood quotes below are all either spoken by First Voice or refer to First Voice. 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
).
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:

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Second Voice
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Come closer now. Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the combs and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird–watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Second Voice
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

FIRST VOICE. From where you are, you can hear in Cockle Row in the spring, moonless night, Miss Price, dressmaker and sweetshop-keeper, dream of

SECOND VOICE. Her lover, tall as the town clock tower, Samson-syrup-gold-maned, whacking thighed and piping hot, thunderbolt-bass’d and barnacle-breasted, flailing up the cockles with his eyes like blowlamps and scooping low over her lonely loving hotwaterbottled body.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Second Voice (speaker), Miss Myfanwy Price, Mr. Mog Edwards
Page Number: 7
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:

FIRST VOICE. […] And in Coronation Street, which you alone can see it is so dark under the chapel in the skies, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, poet, preacher, turns in his deep towards– dawn sleep and dreams of

REVEREND ELI JENKINS. Eisteddfodau.

SECOND VOICE. He intricately rhymes, to the music of crwth and pibgorn, all night long in his druid’s seedy nightie in a beer–tent black with parchs.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Reverend Eli Jenkins (speaker), Second Voice (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Stand on this hill. This is Llareggub Hill, old as the hills, high, cool, and green, and from this small circle of stones, made not by druids but by Mrs. Beynon’s Billy, you can see all the town below you sleeping in the first of the dawn.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Mrs. Beynon, Second Voice
Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Less than five hundred souls inhabit the three quaint streets and the few narrow by-lanes and scattered farmsteads that constitute this small, decaying watering-place which may, indeed, be called a ‘back-water of life’ without disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty individuality of their own. The main street, Coronation Street, consists, for the most part, of humble, two-storied houses many of which attempt to achieve some measure of gaiety by prinking themselves out in crude colours and by the liberal use of pinkwash, though there are remaining a few eighteenth-century houses of more pretension, if, on the whole, in a sad state of disrepair. Though there is little to attract the hillclimber, the healthseeker, the sportsman, or the weekending motorist, the contemplative may, if sufficiently attracted to spare it some leisurely hours, find, in its cobbled streets and its little fishing harbour, in its several curious customs, and in the conversation of its local ‘characters,’ some of that picturesque sense of the past so frequently lacking in towns and villages which have kept more abreast of the times.

Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God?

Related Characters: Polly Garter (speaker), First Voice, Second Voice, Reverend Eli Jenkins
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Up the street, in the Sailors Arms, Sinbad Sailors, grandson of Mary Ann Sailors, draws a pint in the sunlit bar. The ship’s clock in the bar says half past eleven. Half past eleven is opening time. The hands of the clock have stayed still at half past eleven for fifty years. It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Sinbad Sailors, Mary Ann Sailors
Page Number: 40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

SECOND VOICE. Fishermen grumble to their nets. Nogood Boyo goes out in the dinghy Zanzibar, ships the oars, drifts slowly in the dab–filled bay, and, lying on his back in the unbaled water, among crabs’ legs and tangled lines, looks up at the spring sky.

NOGOOD BOYO. (Softly, lazily) I don’t know who’s up there and I don’t care.

Related Characters: Second Voice (speaker), Nogood Boyo (speaker), First Voice
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 41
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:

MRS ORGAN MORGAN. And when you think of all those babies she’s got, then all I can say is she’d better give up bird nesting that’s all I can say, it isn’t the right kind of hobby at all for a woman that can’t say No even to midgets. Remember Bob Spit? He wasn’t any bigger than a baby and he gave her two. But they’re two nice boys, I will say that, Fred Spit and Arthur. Sometimes I like Fred best and sometimes I like Arthur. Who do you like best, Organ?

ORGAN MORGAN. Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

MRS ORGAN MORGAN. Organ Morgan, you haven’t been listening to a word I said. It’s organ organ all the time with you…

FIRST VOICE. And she bursts into tears, and, in the middle of her salty howling, nimbly spears a small flatfish and pelicans it whole.

ORGAN MORGAN. And then Palestrina,

SECOND VOICE. says Organ Morgan.

Related Characters: First Voice (speaker), Second Voice (speaker), Mrs. Organ Morgan (speaker), Organ Morgan (speaker), Polly Garter, Mr. Waldo
Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 71-72
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:

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 87
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:

The thin night darkens. A breeze from the creased water sighs the streets close under Milk waking Wood. The Wood, whose every tree–foot’s cloven in the black glad sight of the hunters of lovers, that is a God–built garden to Mary Ann Sailors who knows there is Heaven on earth and the chosen people of His kind fire in Llareggub’s land, that is the fairday farmhands’ wantoning ignorant chapel of bridesbeds, and, to the Reverend Eli Jenkins, a greenleaved sermon on the innocence of men, the suddenly wind–shaken wood springs awake for the second dark time this one Spring day.

Related Symbols: Milk Wood/Llareggub Hill
Page Number: 94-5
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Under Milk Wood LitChart as a printable PDF.
Under Milk Wood PDF

First Voice Character Timeline in Under Milk Wood

The timeline below shows where the character First Voice 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
First Voice invites the listener “to begin at the beginning” before setting the scene. It’s the middle... (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,... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice directs the listener to listen to the sound of the town’s dressmaker and sweetshop-keeper, Miss... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice draws the listener’s attention up the street to the attic above the cobbler’s shop, where... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
First Voice moves the scene next door, where Mister Waldo, a plump man who sleeps with bread... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention toward the clean and immaculately dressed Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, who is asleep... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
First Voice draws the listener’s attention toward Gossamer Beynon—the butcher’s daughter, and a schoolteacher—who sleeps “under a... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention to the owls hunting over the cemetery. In the chapel on... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
First Voice describes the sun slowly rising in the sky as “time passes.” They urge the listener... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
A 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... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention to Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, who dines on tea and “starchless bread.” Elsewhere,... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
First Voice describes the smell of fried liver emanating from the Beynons’ house. Mrs. Beynon gives the... (full context)
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the scene up the street. Sinbad Sailors, who is Mary Ann Sailors’s grandson, opens... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...crow, which means that the morning is already half over. The organ music stops, and First Voice describes more of the town’s sounds: horses walking down the town’s cobblestone streets, pigs grunting,... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention to the sun beating down on Llareggub and the adjacent sea.... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice redirects the listener’s attention to Willy Nilly, who has returned home to steam open more... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...and Flossie Snail,” who “kept their baby in a milking pail.” After a long pause, First Voice remarks on the “music of the spheres” that echoes over Milk Wood, on which he... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
First Voice describes the way the shrieking children form a mob around Dicky, who eventually breaks away... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice shifts the scene to Lord Cut-Glass, who is in his kitchen, feeding fish scraps to... (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... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...She blows on a dandelion and daydreams of “the dirty old fool” who loves her. First Voice shifts the focus to Reverend Eli Jenkins, who sits in his parlor—his “poem-room”—and writes his... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...the cows by name: “Peg, Meg, Buttercup, Moll, Fan from the Castle, Theodosia and Daisy.” First Voice interjects some background information about Bessie Bighead’s dismal past, which is contained in the White... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
First Voice carries the listener’s attention back to town, where dusk has settled over the cobblestoned streets.... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Second Voice calls the listener’s attention to the Llareggub hillside, and the accordion music stops. First Voice describes Reverend Eli Jenkins at work in his poem-room, where he writes about Llareggub Hill,... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
First Voice implores the listener to observe the darkening night and the breeze that blows over the... (full context)