Under Milk Wood

by

Dylan Thomas

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Second Voice Character Analysis

Second Voice is one of Under Milk Wood’s two omniscient narrators. Second Voice works with First Voice to provide details and imagery that establish the play’s setting and introduce the audience to the play’s eccentric cast of characters. The voices’ narrative direction is particularly important because Under Milk Wood is a radio drama and, therefore, its audience must rely fully on sound—on voices—to orient itself within the world of the play. First Voice and Second Voice have an intimate knowledge of Llareggub, the small fishing village where the play takes place, as well as full access to the innermost thoughts of Llareggub’s townspeople. The play begins at night, with First Voice and Second Voice guiding the audience from house to house, inviting it to observe the townspeople’s dreams. In this manner, the voices introduce many of the play’s characters. Typically, First Voice will initiate the description of a character or point of focus, and Second Voice will interject—sometimes in the middle of First Voice’s sentence—to expand on First Voice’s initial observations with their own psychological insights. Both voices employ artful and visually evocative language to transform the mundane day of seemingly unremarkable people into a compelling story about nostalgia and the meaningfulness of ordinary life.

Second Voice Quotes in Under Milk Wood

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

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:

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:

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

Second Voice Character Timeline in Under Milk Wood

The timeline below shows where the character Second 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
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...Cat, the blind sea-captain, asleep in his bunk on his ship, the S. S. Kidwelly. Second Voice interjects to describe Captain Cat’s dreams, in which he plummets deep into the sea and... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...dressmaker and sweetshop-keeper, Miss Myfanwy Price, dream of her tall, handsome lover, Mr. Mog Edwards. Second Voice interjects, describing Edwards as “whacking thighed and piping hot,” and with “eyes like blowlamps” that... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...to the attic above the cobbler’s shop, where the cobbler, Jack Black, lies fast asleep. Second Voice describes Black’s dreams of brashly breaking up lovers’ rendezvous in the woods. (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Next, Second Voice describes how Evans the Death, the town’s undertaker, laughs as he dreams about being a... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...over the cemetery. In the chapel on Coronation Street, Reverend Eli Jenkins dreams of Eisteddfodau. Second Voice elaborates, explaining how the Reverend crafts rhymes in his sleep. (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
...who rings the townhall bell to awaken the sleeping citizens, which he does every day. Second Voice shifts the focus to Reverend Eli Jenkins, who dresses in his preacher’s robe and walks... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Gossip and Community Theme Icon
Second Voice draws the listener’s attention to Lily Smalls as she scrubs the front steps of the... (full context)
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...time.” First Voice describes the sounds of babies crying and children being sent to school. Second Voice comments on the cranky fishermen tending to their nets. One of these fishermen, Nogood Boyo... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
...redirects the listener’s attention to the sun beating down on Llareggub and the adjacent sea. Second Voice interjects to describe Evans the Death “press[ing] hard with black gloves on the coffin of... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Next, Second Voice notes how the Spring day has incited feelings of anger in Jack Black, who takes... (full context)
Intimacy Theme Icon
Second Voice shifts focus toward Gossamer Beynon leaving the school in her high heels. As she walks... (full context)
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
...the clocks to stay alert in the event that an outsider tries to rob him. Second Voice interjects to explain how “the lust and lilt and lather [...] of the bird-praise and... (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... (full context)
Nostalgia  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Ordinary Life  Theme Icon
Intimacy Theme Icon
Resilience and Redemption   Theme Icon
Nature vs. Society   Theme Icon
Second Voice redirects the listener’s attention to Mae Rose Cottage, who lounges lazily in a field on... (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... (full context)