I’ve been genuinely impressed by the web projects — here’s a samplin’ (in alphabetical order):
With his 1887 novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker takes the ancient and largely extinct figure of the “monster,” such as found in Beowulf, classical mythology, etc., and set it in an explicitly modern environment. The monster is characterized by its perversely humanoid features, isolation from a community, and parasitic lifestyle. Certainly, Dracula has all of these attributes; yet he is also possessed of atypical religious connotations that lend the novel a more traditionally Victorian moralizing tone even as it rides the coattails of Romanticism. It differs in this, too, from its notable predecessor, Frankenstein, which mainly glosses over applicable science or pseudo-science it might employ in favour of purely ontological monsterly self-examination combined with tortured artist-as-scientist mentality. Here, we have a regal, crafty old monster, pursued by sophisticates in the epicenter of modernity, London, armed at once with witch-doctor remedies, aimed at physical destruction of Monsieur Monster, and cunning innovations of the communication front, i.e., typewriters, phonographs, telegrams, and so forth. Dracula, with his 17th century sensibilities, seems something of a Luddite in comparison: old-fashioned and backwards. He is a more primal character, in this sense, engaging with the humours and the elements rather than the “science [and] human knowledge” that Seward and Van Helsing so prize, noting that to be “without such it is monstrous.”
The religion at play here is similarly backwards and out of date; it is Catholicism that Dr. Van Helsing gets the others to reluctantly adopt, in lieu of their Church of England style commonsense that dispenses with such bizarre concepts as transubstantiation, which Dracula so clearly deals in. The near cannibalistic connotations of drinking wine that actually becomes the blood of Christ upon the blessing of the priest have long been noted, and here, Dracula’s consumption of human blood is seen as nothing less than a barbarity to be quashed. Of course, he is, undeniably, something of a superior being. He is largely immortal, capable of preserving his youth, and possessed of superhuman strength, and, like a deity, impenetrable and unknowable: he is the only major character whose psyche we are absolutely cut-off from, he never contributes the narrative by any means.
Most obviously, Dracula is repelled by the crucifix and holy water, the religious undertones become increasingly uncomfortable as we learn more about him. While we can recognize that the associations are meant to draw attention to his character as a sort of antichrist, as a monster, he elicits a certain degree of sympathy from the reader, as an ever-pursued underdog of sorts. In this, he is more Miltonic Satan than unthinking beast; he is well-mannered, aristocratic, and highly intelligent, as Jonathan Harker notes almost immediately in chapters one and two.
His perversity is derived, then, not from a pure disgust reaction that the soulless creature, all teeth and claws, might evoke. He is perverse because he takes the familiar and sacred and uses them for ends that are unfamiliar and destabilizing to the community. Furthermore, he shuns that which is increasingly of most importance, that is, the value civilization and progress that ultimately comes, more than stuffy prudishness, to define the Victorian era.
In Blake’s article, the functions and use of CB radio among the black and white communities is analyzed, bringing forth the different motives, tactics, and ultimately influences that CB radio had on society. What originally started off as a simple form of linear communication, ended up transforming into something much more powerful and cultural during the 1970’s.
The African-American community took advantage of CB radio and transformed it into a new form of communication, one that was able to connect individuals by their racial identities as well as in unique forms of language and speech that gave the African American community a new kind of culture to embrace following the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. While the United States was still divided in mixing black and white together, CB radio gave the community a chance to reach out to others far and wide as well as near and local and form a connection that helped fuel political stances and emotional reasoning.
It had never really occurred to me how the sound of hearing another person’s voice over the radio can make me feel. For African-American’s, hearing a member of their community, a person who had similar characteristics and features must have been very enlightening and powerful since they were not wanted on the radio and were constantly ridiculed, discriminated against, and verbally bashed.
Despite their unwanted voices being heard, they were heard on channels 5 and 6, eventually renamed the “superbowl.” Now the African-American community had a place where they could listen, laugh and know that they can connect with others through the power of sound. As society and the world continue to change, so does the influence of sound technology such as CB radio on our culture and our individual selves.
I found Captain Cat from Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood particularly interesting because he is the audience’s relatable character due to the fact that like the listener he is blind. He like the listener constructs the world of Milk Wood through sound and descriptions acting as a guide (blind guiding the blind). By listening to both the action of the village around us as well as his descriptions we are able to move through space in an interesting way. For example page 42-48 when Willy Nilly is delivering the mail, Captain Cat guides us through the mailman’s route creating a kind of map in the listener’s mind’s eye.
“First Voice: Captain Cat hears Willy Nilly’s feet on the distant cobbles.
Captain Cat: One, two, three, four, five… That’s Mrs Rose Cottage. What’s to-day? To-day she gets the letter from her sister in Gorslas…” (45)
This is but one example of the many in this scene where footstep are then followed by Captain Cat’s descriptions (or perhaps a better word is narration) of who, what and where which helps the listener not only understand what is happening but also where it is happening. Captain Cat acts a lot like the disembodied First Voice and Second Voice. Like these narrative voices that are located outside of the village realm Captain Cat is also a kind of outsider. He has no family, he is blind, he appears to live alone, he is an integrated but still separate component of the community. And for the listeners he is narrator and also one that helps map out and orient oneself to this unseen world.
Also linked with darkness, night, dreaming and blindness is the otherworld of the dead which this radio play braids in with the reality of the living and the world of dreams to create a whole. Captain Cat seemed to have the strongest link to the dead or at least has greatest number of visiting ghosts which come to him through his dreams and memories. In the very beginning he is visited by all his drowned crewmates from the past. They recount to the captain their demise and also ask about the present, about their loved ones.
“Fifth Drown: And who brings coconuts and shawls and parrots to my Gwen now?
First Drowned: How’s it above?
Second Drowned: Is there rum and lavabread?
Third Drown: Bosoms and robins?” (5)
They are painful reminders of the past and how time moves ever onward but at the same time they are present in the dreams, alive in a way and interacting with their lost future. In this way Under Milk Wood plays with time, blending the past and present. It plays with the idea of death and dreams as a kind of death, a way to transport to that quiet dead world and interact with lost companions. I thought the interaction between Captain Cat and Rosie Probert was particularly interesting because it highlights this plays interest in death, ghosts and memory. The interaction is bittersweet, recalling the lovers past but also reminding the Captain that he is all alone and Rosie, who is long dead, is forgetting that she ever existed.
The play is obsessed with memory, we get most our information about our characters lives and histories through memories and dreams of others. Dreams are like memories that allow people from the past, alive and dead, to interact with the dreamer. The listener is granted access through these dream states to the histories of these individuals. All of these memories must be spoken and described to us by someone because, of course, this is a radio play which is supposed to be heard and not seen. As a result these surreal dream and memory accounts create a story that you must follow with your mind’s eye.
In the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Dracula, the writer focuses heavily on the realistic and believable nature of the text, stating that “the story is told in such a realistic way that one actually accepts its wildest flights of fancy as real facts” (Stoker 367). The critic clearly felt that Stoker had a way of making the unreal seem plausible and that though the reader is aware that vampires are not real, they are still willing to accept the facts of this novel to be true because of the way it is written. These elements of realness can be attributed to several characteristics of the text, most prominently the incorporation of modern technologies, such as phonograph recordings. By using a number of different mediums to communicate the plot of the story, Stoker creates an entire world for the reader to enter, making the text seem more realistic.
The medium of a diary is interesting in the case of Dracula, because the text is essentially a fantasy tale, but the format of a diary implies an intimacy and an honesty between the reader and the characters who is writing. A reader is more likely to trust a narrator who is writing or recording something simply to remember it, rather than a narrator who is aware that they are speaking to an audience. For example, Jonathan Harker’s journal begins as a very fact-based piece of writing, serving the purpose of documenting where he is and how he had gotten there. The first sentence, reading “Left Munich at 8:35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning, should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late” (9). The attention to specific, concrete details sets the tone for the novel being realistic and feeling almost like a written documentary. Beginning the novel this way also plants a level of trust within the reader for Jonathan Harker. His concentration on stating things factually and directly displays that he is not likely to exaggerate or romanticize the events that he records, but rather that he will tend to write them exactly as they happened. A diary could be considered risky as a source of truth, as diaries are generally a place where people express themselves and record their emotions, but in Jonathan Harker’s case, the diary is more of a scientific document than a work of sentiment.
Another element that enhances the believability of the novel is the use of the phonograph. The phonograph is something material and concrete that the reader can clearly see is being referenced int he text. Before Dr. Seward’s diary entry even begins, the reader is informed that he keeps his diary recorded with a phonograph. The scientific nature of Jonathan Harker’s journal is maintained through Dr. Seward’s contributions as well, because his job is to observe people and write very specifically about their behavior. His role as a doctor makes him appear to be unbiased to the situations that he witnesses, as the emotional or sentimental opinion of a doctor is irrelevant to the process of medical evaluation. The manner in which Dr. Seward’s testimonies are recorded, even if they were simply written, is very obviously technical. Within his first entry, Dr. Seward is going over his notes on a patient, R.M. Renfield. In talking about Renfield, Dr. Seward is strictly concerned with the facts, stating that he has “sanguine temperament; great physical strength; morbidly excitable; [and] periods of gloom” (62). Like Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward mentions nothing about how he feels about the situation and makes no effort to narrate the information he is providing beyond the straight facts.
A third characteristic of the text that separates it from the realm of fantasy is the incorporation of newspaper clippings. One of these clippings is found in Mina Murray’s journal and documents the progression of a storm. The actual content, though valuable to the novel itself, is not as important to the realness as is the fact that the clipping is from a newspaper. Despite the fact that the clipping is fabricated, the knowledge that it came from a newspaper gives it some validity as a source of information. The presence of a newspaper clipping brings in a familiar element of the real world and makes it a part of this fantasy world, bringing a sense of actuality to the rest of the novel. Just like Dr. Seward’s phonograph, the newspaper clipping gives the reader something concrete on which the information they are receiving is based.
The scientific feel of the novel, in addition to the incorporation of technologies and media such as phonographs and newspapers bring the reader a realistic tone that the critic from the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on. These real-world media give validity to Stoker’s writing, despite the fact that it is clearly based in fantasy.
I have not personally been a big fan of Dylan Thomas’ genius and after reading about the fictitious characters of Llareggub, in Under Milk Wood, my disposition on Thomas remains unchanged. I understand that Dylan Thomas is essentially deified in the minds of literary scholars for his past works, intricate phrasing and love of alliteration, but if any of his other works are like the radio play Under Milk Wood, I have a hard time seeing how he became so renowned for his poetical potential. I did not like the radio play because it was extremely random and many characters were introduced only to have one line or very few lines. Juxtaposing Dylan Thoma’s Under Milk Wood to how I would conceive a play, Under Milk Wood lacks a true plot that is developed with significant characters dispersed throughout and integral to the story being told.
The plot of Under Milk Wood, or purpose, if one exists, is to showcase a small Welsh village, characterized by overtly dramatic, hypersexual, and interesting individuals that tie in to the 3rd Programme’s ideals of “high-brow” entertainment. We are brought into the world of Llareggub via a ship captain who goes by the name of Cat. He is a blind man, and he serves as a vehicle to the audience to help “transport” the listener into the Welsh ways of the town. Captain Cat has a very keen memory and hypersensitive senses because of his lack of sight, thus, he describes his world to the listener through the best faculty for a radio, sound. Captain Cat knows who is arriving at what time and for who based on daily routines of the mailman and his close neighbors (p47). Because he is blind, the audience automatically establishes a connection between themselves and the Captain because neither one can see the world of Llareggub, accordingly it must be described via sound.
One thing that did catch my eye and alleviate the stress of such a play was the interesting names and personalities Thomas gave to the characters of the city. Dylan Thomas, for some but not all characters, named the individual by their disposition or demeanor in the story. For instance, Polly Garter is an extremely promiscuous woman. She sings about “Tom, Dick, And Harry” whom she has had relations with all, and uses evocative phrases such as “Two yards long, three feet thick… and as sweet as a cherry” to describe their sexual abilities and endowments (p60). She even expresses that she will “never have such loving again” (p73). Another interesting case occurred through the clean freak Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. She is so obsessed with cleanliness because one of her husbands died from bacteria. She thinks of her dead husband and has conversations with him. The list of interesting characters goes on from Gossamer Beynon, the beautiful schoolteacher and Nogood Boyo the adolescent menace, to Miss Price who sells her “sweets” to men of all ages.
Dylan Thomas uses the convention of making people’s names fit how they act in the radio play for two reasons. The first reason is to make it easier for the audience to follow along at home. If someone was not carefully paying attention but heard a song about many men and their abilities, one could easily deduce that Miss Garter was speaking. Or if the listener simply hears a lot of sounds and a man describing what he is hearing, one can relay the information said back to Captain Cat. Another reason for this is because it makes the story flow a lot easier by giving the characters trivial names than actual surnames and histories. This allows the listener to take in information without extra mental activity to decode whom this person is, where they are coming from, and why they are important to the story. Dylan Thomas incorporates a multitude of characters into this work and not all of them have important dialogue, so attributing them a full name would only complicate the fairly straightforward but somewhat confusing story even more.
Death was also a prevalent motif in Under Milk Wood. Captain Cat dreams of his dead sailors who were at sea with him once upon a time, Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard thinks about her dead husbands constantly and Polly Garter also thinks of a past lover, Willy Wee who died. The play begins and ends at night and the references to death could represent the full circle of life that each member of the play has come in contact with at one point of their life or another.
In Thomas Edison’s “The Phonograph and its future” he makes predictions of the effects the phonograph will have on the future society. In fact, as he was writing it, he was still tinkering with the phonoautograph, an earlier version of the phonograph although he already announced the news of the phonograph. Since this article, the phonoautograph did become the phonograph, which led way to telephones, radios, voice recorders (on the telephone), “talkies”, to more modern technologies such as walkmans and cassettes. When he wrote the article, Edison claimed that the then current uses of the phonograph were so closely tied to the possibilities of future use that he put them all under one section which included: letter writing and other forms of dictation written word, books, musical boxes, toys, clocks, advertising, signaling apparatus, speeches, etc. (Edison) He also included a basic FAQ section regarding how the phonograph ‘currently’ worked in its most elementary form.
With these “actualities” of the phonograph listed in his article, he also closely tied in the “probabilities” for his invention. The characteristics of the phonograph which Edison listed as indefinite repetition of data, economically cheap medium, easily transported, useful for communications, easy identification of tone, easy duplication, privatization, rapid dictation, and easily stored and filed was the basis that Edison foresaw the future “probabilities”. (Edison) Edison had high expectations for this invention, such as becoming part of people’s daily lives, having voice boxes for toys, most of which came true that would revolutionize the storage of time, space, and information in media.
The telephone and radio, two progressive inventions which stemmed from the phonograph have met and probably exceeded Edison’s high expectations. Edison, as he writes in his “The Phonograph and its Future”, believed that the “captivity of all manner of sound waves heretofore designated as “fugitive” and their permanent retention.” The creation of records from the medium of the phonograph fulfilled that expectation, allowing the permanence and repeatability of sound to be stored. The radio and telephone shifted ideas of time and space that sound was once limited by. The record allowed that sound liberated from time and space to be forever still- kept and used at a future time. Furthermore, the invention of the phonograph and its future probabilities that Edison foresaw not only changed the technology of sound, but expanded it above and beyond what Edison predicted. In Katz’s “Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music”, we see the listed effects of the phonograph that were the basic foundations of the revolution in sound technology: tangibility, portability, invisibility, repeatability, temporality, receptivity, and manipulability. These characteristics were all addressed by Edison in his “The Phonograph and its Future” when Edison had not even fully perfected the phonograph and was still working on its predecessor invention, the phonoautograph. That he was so confident that his sound invention would revolutionize the world shows the importance of sound and the ear itself, which was often an overlooked sense and organ.
Nighttime is conducive to remembering and looking back on the past for the characters of Under Milk Wood. The short radio play describes a fictional Welsh village and a day in the life. During the dream sequences in which the listener hears descriptions of the characters’ dreams, memories of past and present become one. The village status quo and habits of daily life occur according to the patterns of the village. A single day that starts at night and ends at night (as opposed to starting at sunrise and ending at sundown) is just one unit in the lives of the characters. Simultaneously, the village itself acts as a single unit that operates outside of any centralized government (as far as the listener/reader can tell) and is functional standing on its own.
In the first scene when Captain Cat dreams of his sailors that have drowned and are now dead he speaks with a few people in his dream, the Second Drowned asks, “Do you see me, Captain? the white bone talking? I’m Tom-Fred the donkeyman… we shared the same girl once… her name was Mrs Probert…” (Thomas 4). The Fifth Drowned tells Captain Cat his name in the dream, “Curly Bevan. Tell my auntie it was me that pawned the ormolu clock” (Thomas 4). These are very interesting manifestations of characters passed. For one, this is the only capacity in which the reader knows these drowned people. It is not clear whether they are actual souls visiting Captain Cat in his sleep (who knows for certain whether or not Second Drowned actually slept with Mrs Probert), or if they are fabrications of Captain Cat’s dreams and are products of his subconscience. Whether or not the Second or Fifth Drowned actually did that while they were living, it is obvious that the people Captain Cat remembers are concerned with human relationships, and by extension that Captain Cat is concerned with human relationships too. They have come back from the dead in a form of a dream to tell Captain Cat about their relationships with people when they were living. Whether the drowned sailors are in actuality looking back on their lives, and because all humans are relational beings, they are concerned with close friends and family members from their time on earth.
Another dream that Captain Cat has is about Rosie Probert, who was his favorite lover. In his dream they have a dialogue and sing to each other. They go on together; she calls him her “favorite husband,” and he claims to her “Let me shipwreck in your thighs” (Thomas 77). The motif of remembering gets repeated when Rosie tells Captain Cat in his dream “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” (Thomas 78). I want to point out that again the motif of remembering is about remembering people who were close to the characters. As opposed to what Reith was attempting to spark British people into remembering, or as opposed to what the Third Program was trying to achieve, Captain Cat and the other characters of Under Milk Wood (especially those were lucky to find love) remember their lovers passed. They remember tender moments of time spent with people they loved and who are now gone. The nostalgia comes with death, and is forgotten in the nighttime, according to Rosie Probert. I really think this close focus on human relationships and the certainty that all great things must end is due to the close-knit kinship of the community that is portrayed. It is a small town in which most people have never left. The fabric of their community is built of who knows whom and who is involved with whom, meaning that the people of the town spend a lot of their time with other people. By emphasizing this foundation of the community, the mere fact that people are close and fond of each other, I believe that the community that was portrayed is relatable to nearly everyone who heard Under Milk Wood on the radio. It is those basic relationships that needed to be cultivated in Post-war Britain, also, because the society has lost faith in ideologies.
Polly Garter in the same way remembers her closest lover, whose name was Willy Wee. She compares Willy Wee to all of her other lovers and concludes that he was the best one. She clarifies that Willy Wee isn’t alive anymore, and repeats “O Tom Dick and Harry were three fine men And I’ll never have such loving again But little Willy Wee who took me on his knee Little Willy Wee was the man for me” (Thomas 60). The tone that she speaks in sounds nostalgic, and maybe she likes him best because he is already gone. But when looking back on all of her experiences with men, she remembers Willy Wee most fondly and clearly, and repeatedly refers to him throughout the play.
In Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, the dynamics between the various characters are representative of the cohesive future that Britain is hoping for. The tension that is present throughout the play is essential in helping listeners to understand the concept of a national identity and what defines it. The friction is expressed through the diction and use of alliteration found in the text. The quick pace of the play, in addition to the frequent overlapping of characters’ voices demonstrates that at a certain level, tension can result in unification.
An example of alliteration and diction being used to create a balance of tense and united is the description of Miss Myfanwy Price and one of the boys’ mothers. When speaking about the mother, Thomas uses phrases like “milky mum,” “cowbreath,” and “fat birth-smelling bed” (Thomas 66). Directly after this description, Miss Myfanwy Price is described as “a puff-bosomed robin” with “gobstoppers big as wens that rainbow as you suck, brandyballs, winegums” (66). These descriptions clearly oppose each other, but the manner with which they are delivered makes them flow together. The alliterations and almost list-like format of the phrases make for a quick pace, so that the descriptions of the mother transitions effortlessly into the description of Miss Price. The contradictions between one woman and the other are unified by the oral delivery, mirroring the possibility for opposing beliefs or lifestyles to be brought together by a single commonality.
One of the most interesting examples of this dynamic is between Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard and her two dead husbands. The diction is repetitive, as the husbands begin most sentences with “I must” (16). Both men list off their tasks, and in the audio track, the pace seems to quicken as the list continues. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard jumps in occasionally to give specifications, but the back-and-forth nature of the husbands’ lines creates a rhythm that is both strained–as they begin to overlap one another–and fluid at the same time. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s bossy demeanor seems to be accepted by her husbands, as they acknowledge her role as the dominating spouse. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s nagging, though it presents a touch of conflict, is an integral element of her relationship with her husbands. Without that slight discord, perhaps the relationships would not have worked; thus, the dynamic needs some tension in order to work the way that it does.
This understanding of one’s role in the scheme of a larger interaction parallels the concept of a national identity. After World War II, Britain was searching for a way to reunite the British people and rebuild the British identity that had once been so distinct. Under Milk Wood gives the listener a vision of a town that has its share of discrepancies, but that has common ground in the fact that they live in the same place. The variation of characters is vast, which is evident simply in the size of the cast. The gossiping and judgmental nature of the townspeople would appear to result in a divided, anti-social environment, but it creates quite the opposite. The entire cast is connected by where they live, and the setting of a small, closely-knit town plays a crucial role in relating this to the existence of a British identity. It shows that even if a group of people do not necessarily agree on every issue or lead similar lifestyles, they can still inhabit the same place and form a collective identity based on their shared environment.
The characters in the play and the bond they share as members of the same town alludes to the opportunity for Britain to rebuild their national identity. It displays that differences are important elements of a unified community and that where one lives is enough of a reason to feel connected to others.