Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”, a villanelle by Dylan Thomas, is a poem that explores the vulnerability associated with growing old and inching toward death. There are six stanzas in this poem with a simple rhyme structure that belies the complex message of the poem. In general, it is apparent that this is a poem about death and dying but when examined closer, it becomes clear that it is also about life and how it is lived.

Through its structure as well as the use and choice of language that invokes certain images and employs certain techniques, it arouses deep imagery. The introductory stanza says that old age should do something against the other things and should not give up and do nothing. In stanza 2 to 5 the author lists a few groups of people: wise men, good men, wild men and grave men and describes their actions with a few metaphors. In the last stanza Dylan Thomas speaks to his father.

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Wise, good, wild and grave men (of all personalities and every persuasion) do not surrender to Death easily. While Death is “good” and irresistible, the final spark of life in every man, must blaze both defiantly and furiously against the force that extinguishes it. The poem is an exhortation to die gloriously, resisting the inexorable advance of the inevitable. Dylan Thomas is expressing the idea that moving toward death should not be something we do in a resigned way, but rather that we should fight it and go out in a blaze of glory.

When he says, “rage, rage against the dying of the light” it is clear that the dying light is means darkness, which is a metaphor for death and that in old age, we should “burn” with life, which brings to mind images of brightness, light, and life. This almost acts as something of a thesis statement for the rest of the poem since it clearly defines and outlines the speaker’s beliefs about aging and death. If Dylan Thomas were alive, maybe he is one of those people who strongly oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia.

As cited in his poem, he seems to fear, loath, and swear against a willing passage into the “dying of the light” or, life and urges people, especially his father to “rage, rage” against it; that is, he urges him to fight death, to not succumb to it easily, but to pursue life. Finally, in my opinion, his early death was somehow influenced by the predictions of his father, DJ and his wife, Caitlin. His father predicted that he will not live up to the age of 40, which coincidentally came true when he died at 39 due to excessive drinking.

His conviction that he would die young led him to create “instant Dylan” – the persona of the wild young Welsh bard, ruined by alcohol and women, which he believed his public wanted. When he was 35 years old, he described himself as “old, small, dark, intelligent, and darting-doting-dotting eyed … balding and toothlessing. ” Maybe dying like this was his own distinctive way of expressing his “rage against the dying of the light”.

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