The Use of Poetic Techniques in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood

1. Introduction

Under Milk Wood is a play for voices which was written by Dylan Thomas in 1954. The piece is set in the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub (pronounced “thlarr-eggoob”), and it is told by a series of narrators who take on the roles of the villagers. The play is structured as a day in the life of the village, from dawn to dusk, and the narration is in a poetic form. This allows the audiences to be informed by the villagers’ thoughts and dreams, as well as their actions and dialogue.

2. Using poetic techniques

Dylan Thomas uses a number of poetic techniques in Under Milk Wood, including assonance, onomatopoeia, similes, compound adjectives, and personification. These devices are used to create a musicality in the language, which enhances the dream-like quality of the play.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, and it is used throughout the play to create a hypnotic effect. For example, in the opening lines of the play, the narrator speaks of “the sleep-walking town” which “hangs and hums”. The ‘o’ sound in “town”, “hangs”, and “hums” creates a sense of continuity and progression. This is continued in the next line with the words “dreaming its silent litany”. Here, Thomas uses assonance to create a sense of rhythm and flow, which mirrors the sleepy state of the village.

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that they describe. Thomas uses onomatopoeia to bring to life the sounds of nature, as well as the human voice. In the opening scene, for example, he writes that “the sea hiccups comfortably all day”. The ‘hic’ sound imitates the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Later in the play, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard is described as having “a throat like an ocean liner’s foghorn”. Here, Thomas uses onomatopoeia to convey Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s loud voice.

Similes are used extensively in Under Milk Wood, often to compare various characters to animals or objects. For example, Mr Pugh is described as being “like an aged cricket” while Mrs Pugh is said to be “like an old hen”. Later in the play, Captain Cat is compared to a shipwrecked sailor who has been stranded on an island for many years. These comparisons help to create vivid images in the audience’s mind, and they also add humour to the play.

Compound adjectives are two or more adjectives that are used together to describe a noun. They are often used in Under Milk Wood to create long lists of descriptive words. For example, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard is described as having “a face like a wedding-cake left out in the rain”, while her husband is said to have “a nose like a potato”. These compound adjectives help to paint a detailed picture of each character, and they also add to the musicality of Thomas’s language.

Personification is when an object or animal is given human qualities or characteristics. Thomas uses personification extensively in Under Milk Wood, often to convey the emotions of the characters. For example, in the opening scene, the narrator speaks of the “town waking up like a loud old man”. Later in the play, Mrs Organ-Morgan is described as being “half-crazy with worry”. These examples help to bring the characters to life, and they also add to the dream-like quality of the play.

3. Compound adjectives

As mentioned above, Dylan Thomas uses compound adjectives extensively in Under Milk Wood. This is a technique that is used to create long lists of descriptive words. For example, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard is described as having “a face like a wedding-cake left out in the rain”, while her husband is said to have “a nose like a potato”. These compound adjectives help to paint a detailed picture of each character, and they also add to the musicality of Thomas’s language.

4. Personification

Personification is when an object or animal is given human qualities or characteristics. Thomas uses personification extensively in Under Milk Wood, often to convey the emotions of the characters. For example, in the opening scene, the narrator speaks of the “town waking up like a loud old man”. Later in the play, Mrs Organ-Morgan is described as being “half-crazy with worry”. These examples help to bring the characters to life, and they also add to the dream-like quality of the play.

5. Conclusion

Under Milk Wood is a play for voices which was written by Dylan Thomas in 1954. The piece is set in the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub (pronounced “thlarr-eggoob”), and it is told by a series of narrators who take on the roles of the villagers. The play is structured as a day in the life of the village, from dawn to dusk, and the narration is in a poetic form. This allows the audiences to be informed by the villagers’ thoughts and dreams, as well as their actions and dialogue.

Dylan Thomas uses a number of poetic techniques in Under Milk Wood, including assonance, onomatopoeia, similes, compound adjectives, and personification. These devices are used to create a musicality in the language, which enhances the dream-like quality of the play.

FAQ

The play's central theme is the search for identity.

Dylan Thomas uses language to create a unique atmosphere in the play by using words that are evocative and suggestive.

The main characters' motivations are to find themselves and their place in the world. They change over the course of the play by growing more confident and comfortable in their own skin.