Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood deals with the simplicity of life, stressing the importance of “each cobble, donkey, and goose”; we must rejoice in the simple aspects of life which ultimately make it so wonderful. There are many characters in the play who would attempt to hide from reality behind their “germ-free blinds” and “sealed windows”, consuming themselves with insipid activities which do not bring the joy of the “spring sun” into their lives. Thomas’ treats these characters with humour, subtly suggesting where his sympathies lie; with those characters who rejoice in the “love” and the little aspects of life which make it so much more worth living.
In the early stages of the play, the audience is invited into the “big seas” of Captain Cat’s “dreams” where “the long drowned nuzzle up to him”. The humorous banter between the “dead” which follows is used by Thomas to highlight how important it is to appreciate the simple, everyday things in life which may otherwise be taken for granted. As their banter becomes more and more frenzied, it turns to topics which, for a living person, may seem unimportant; the “coconuts and shawls and parrots”, the “rum and lava bread” and music of “concertinas”. The continued presence of these subjects within the conversation of the “drowned” however brings a sense of pathos to the scene, reminding the audience that the time which such simple and ultimately important aspects of life is very restricted.
The character of Captain Cat is treated sympathetically by Thomas, his conversations with the dead a reminder of both death’s immanence and of the importance of having no fear of this. Captain Cat relishes in life, surrounding himself with the things he loves, shown in his “seashelled, ship-in bottled, shipshape best cabin of schooner house”. Captain Cat, despite being both “retired and blind”, has no fear of time nor death, being able to identify with both the young and the “long drowned”. The captain’s dreams of the dead suggest that he has lived a long and full life, and the fact that those in his dreams rejoice in the simple aspects of their lives suggests both that these are the things they miss the most, and also that Captain Cat knows that these aspects are not to be taken for granted.
Mog Edwards and Miss Myfanwy Price have an eccentric relationship which, despite being from a distance, they celebrate and enjoy every day of their relationship “until death do us part”. The love they feel, whether or not it is for each other or for the idea of such a relationship, is an integral part to their lives and, although somewhat strange, it is a blessing that such love is not taken for granted. Thomas treats the two characters with satire, Mog Edwards being more taken with economical ideas of “business” being “poorly” than that of love as his letters consist for the most part of financial despair. It is hence perhaps the ease of the relationship which appeals to the couple the most; love, at a distance, is all they need to be happy, and the fact that they rejoice in such a relationship is not as humorous an idea as it is satisfying to know that such happy and “eternal” love is made the most of to the furthest extent possible.
There are also those characters at the opposite end of the scale who live “loveless” or “dark” lives, denying the reality that they.