Analysis of Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night'

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28th Sep 2017 English Literature Reference this

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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wide men at their end know dark is right.

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see the blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Marlais Thomas, a Welsh poet known for his creative, rhythmic and original using of words and imagery, is one of the greatest Welsh poets in the early 20th century. In one of his most famous poem Do not go gentle into that good night, the author classifies men into four different categories to persuade his dying father to realize that no matter the life choices, consequences, or personalities, there is a reason to live. It is possible that Thomas uses these categories to give his father no excuses, regardless of what he did in life. Through multiple unique figurative statements of death and different people, Dylan Thomas assert that one should not die silently or just quit the life easily. Instead, the elderly should fight for their life till the end.

Thomas used exhaustive method to make his opinion persuasive to his father. To show the universal relevance of his theme, the author created four different perspectives in his poem. They are the wide men who know that the cores of their lives are not knowledge and intelligence, the good men who become conscious that their good deeds won’t define their identity, the wild men who feel regretful for their shallow youth when they reach the old age, and the grave men who are exemplified in the fifth stanza “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight/ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay.” Men who are at the end of their lives realize that their physical disabilities can’t stop them from remaining strong or pursuing joy. Though all four men lived unalike lives, at the end of their lives, they come to the same conclusions: they should not base their identities on their youth, and they can live a wholesome life in their old age.

To make his father emulate those four types of men, Thomas uses unique metaphors to create a representation of all the men. Thomas begins by invoking the wise men who, “Because their words had forked no lightening they/ Do not go gentle into that good night”(4-5). The wise men Thomas speaks of refuse to resign to their fates as dead men because they have not yet accomplished what they set out to do. Thomas’s “lightening” is a representative metaphor of the goals set forth by the strong that serve as motivation to continue living robustly. By idolizing these wise men, Thomas implicates that he desires his father to emulate them; to press on toward anything that may at least give him some purpose besides waiting complacently for death to lower its scythe upon him.

Thomas’s use of other men as examples of a desired state for his father is repeated through each stanza of the poem. In Thomas’s third stanza, he invokes the merits of “Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright/Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay”(7-8). These “good men” strive endlessly to make their mark on the world, unsatisfied with their subjectively “frail” deeds until finally death catches up with them. These men “rage against the dying of the light” (9) because they have not yet met their goals, much like the wise men proceeding them. This passion for improvement and strength to persevere are exactly the qualities that Dylan Thomas begs his father to put forth, for Dylan’s own sake as much as his father’s.

Other than for all men, the author also use metaphor for other objects in this poem. The use of the metaphor “that good night” (1, 6, 12, 18) gives the impression that Thomas knew that death was right. He calls it that good night instead of another ghastly term for death. However, he also calls it “the dying of the light,” (3, 9, 15, 19) which suggest a peaceful surrender. He urges his father to rage against a peaceful end and endeavor to resist his demise. Thomas uses the words night and light as metaphors for death and life and alternates them to hammer home his point. Part of this poem seems to be almost a light hearted when he declares “Old age should burn and rave at close of day,” (2) almost as if saying old people should be allowed to live long and complain as long as they do not give up. The purpose of his use of division into categories remains, however to emphasize the importance of living, leaving his father with an unmistakable argument…choose life.

Finally, in the last stanza the intent is presented, Thomas is showing that all men no matter their experiences or situations fight for more time. He urges his father to do the same. “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,” (17) describes his pain and passion that are causing him to beg his father not to die. Thomas is watching his father fade and is begging for his father no to give in. It appears that his father has either peacefully surrendered himself, or rather that he has resigned himself to his fate.

Other than rhyme and metaphors, Dylan Thomas also use personification to make his statement more vivid and touching. For example, personification is used in line 8, “their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay.” Frail deeds are not human beings, so they cannot dance actually. However, the verb “dance” is so energetic that it makes a high contrast with the word “frail”. Through the using of the word “dance”, readers can feel the good men are fighting with their destiny to the last moment. Besides, the word “green” also brings a feeling of life and vitality. Generally, the personification here successfully shows the effort and the determination of the good men, which gives a wonderful model for Thomas’s father.

In line 10, figurative language is used, “wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight.” Later in the poem, “fierce tears” (17) is an example of assonance. Lastly, the poet describes blind eyes by using a simile, “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,” (4). The poem evokes intense emotions from the reader, by using repetition and a variety of poetic devices.

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is merely words sculpted together in a specific way to stress how death needs to be repelled because it is unfair and takes the best with it first. Mastermind Dylan Thomas encountered a way to flash colorful images through readers’ minds, along with symbolism and metaphors which foreshadow what he really means. That, plus his way of intertwining the pieces together into nineteen lines with ten syllables each makes this villanelle a wonderful work to read and comprehend. Thomas’ purpose was to convince his dear father, the man whom he looked up to, to fight, because the effort meant everything. Reading this passionate and driving poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” will provoke excitement and meaning to seniors who seem to have lost all reason to live.

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