Posted: November 28th, 2013
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
The poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night was written by Dylan Thomas to his dying father as a way of discouraging him against giving up. Thomas’ father, who was a strong, energetic and enthusiastic militant man, was now frail and almost dying. According to the poet, his father was accepting death. The speaker tries to use such words as “wise men” (Stanza 2), “good men” (stanza 3), “wild men” (stanza 4) and “grave men” (stanza 5) in order to encourage his father to keep strong and fight for his life. In this poem, the speaker admits to the inevitability that death possesses in the second stanza “though wise men at their end know dark is right” (line 1). However, he still offers an encouragement in terms of hope towards opposing disheartening actions in life.
This message is greatly communicated in the alternate ending line of the stanzas “Do not go gentle into that good night” (stanzas 2 and 4) or “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (stanzas 1, 3, 5 and 6). In general, the main theme in this poem is death. The author uses two different lines in the alternate stanzas to communicate the given theme. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and “Do not go gentle into that good night” have been used interchangeably. For instance, rage and good, dying and gentle, light and night have been used one in place of the other with the poet trying to use both positive and negative words to show that life is worth fighting for even at the frail moments.
Metaphors have been used in this poem to elaborate the thematic message. The phrase “close of day” (stanza 1, line 2) is metaphoric. A day does not “close”. The phrase creates imagery for the death experience by equating it to a day’s close. The phrase “their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay” (stanza 3, line 2) reminds Thomas’ father about the days when he was strong and full of energy, since deeds do not dance. Therefore, the phrase is used to portray the energy and enthusiasm noted in his father’s younger days when he was still full of energy and excellent health.
Further research has actually revealed that the poet did not present his father this poem. This means that he was addressing the poem to himself as opposed to the prevalent view that it was primarily meant for his father. Thomas needed to encourage himself to be strong even though he knew that it was unrealistic to ask his father to resort to the same energy levels he bore while serving as a militant. The poet could not bring himself in to accepting the fact that his father’s “departure” was nigh. From his viewpoint, one should be able to fight to the end with regard to life.
Thomas uses the villanelle to beseech his dying father to rage thus creating irony. He also employs the same due to its recurring nature in order to create prominence within the messages. Day and night are symbols used to identify life and death respectively, with the poet insisting that one must always choose life over death at all instances.
Interestingly, the poet could have been addressing is own fears within the poem and not necessarily his father’s needs. Thomas’ father was a very important person in his life and he was afraid that death would deprive him of the relationship between them. The poem therefore encouraged and reminded Thomas that life is quite significant and therefore mandating hope at all instances. Of course, it was almost impossible to encourage a dying man to live the way he used to live before, as such days since death within the prime of life is an inevitable happening. Probably Thomas wanted to maintain a script that he could for optimism during his demise period.
Gardner, J. E. (2008). Writing About Literature: A Portable Guide. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.
Kelly, J. (2007). The Seagull Reader: Poems. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.
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