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An Analysis of "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas

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Choose Life

     The poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”, by Dylan Thomas is a son’s plea to a dying father. His purpose is to show his father that all men face the same end, but they fight for life, nonetheless. “Old age should burn and rave at close of day,” (line 2) is almost the thesis for this poem. Thomas classifies men into four different categories to persuade his 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.

     Wise men are the first group that Thomas describes. The first line in the stanza, “Though wise men at their end know dark is right,” (4) suggests that they know that death is a natural part of life and they are wise enough to know they should accept it. However, the next line reasons that they fight against it because they feel they have not gained nearly enough repute or notoriety. “Because their words had forked no lighting” (5) is Thomas’ way of saying that they want to hold on to life to be able to leave their mark, thereby sustaining their memory in history as great scholars or philosophers.

     Thomas moves forward and describes the next group as good men. They reflect on their lives as the end approaches. “Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright,” (7) This line can be broken down into two parts. First’ good men are few now, as it says “the last wave by,” perhaps this is emphasis on the fact that Thomas believes his father to be a good man and that the world can still use him. Second, the line “crying how bright,” refers to men telling their stories in a limelight. They self-proclaim their works as good, but as Thomas goes on into the next line “their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,” (8) it describes men knowing that their deeds will not be remembered regardless of their seemingly significant achievements. Green bay refers to an eternal sea, which marks their place in history. After reflecting on the past, they decide that they want to live if for nothing more than to leave their names written down in history.

     Wild men, however as the next group is revealed, have learned too late that they are mortal. They spent their lives in action and only realize as time has caught up with them that this is the end. “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,” (10) exaggerates their experiences and how they have wasted away their days chasing what they could not catch. Even more so “caught and sang the sun,” refers to how these wild men lived. They were daredevils who faced peril with blissful ignorance. They wasted away their lives on adventures and excitements. The next line, “And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,” (11) refers to the realism of their own mortality. They grieve because they have caused much grief living their lives in folly. Even though the end is approaching, they will not give in because they want more time to hold on to the adventure of their youth and perhaps right a few wrongs that they have done.

    Grave men, are the last group of men Thomas describes. “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,” (13) in this line his use of grave men has almost a double meaning, referring to men who are saddened as well as being physically near death. They feel the strains of a long life, and they know they are physically decaying. Their eyes are failing along with the rest of their body, however there is still a passion burning within their eyes for an existence, even if it is a frail state. “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,” (14) is an expression that represent man’s struggle for survival. He is possibly offering that even in this frail state that his father could be happy living longer.

     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.

     Thomas starts the poem referring to wise men, then to good men, then changes pace to wild men, and finally fades out with grave men. One reason he uses this progression is to start with where he sees his father’s character lie, and then finally move toward what Thomas believes his father has resigned himself as. Thomas’ father was a military man and his father’s resignation to his current state is eating away at him. He suggests that every man needs to make his mark in life and his father has not done so. He is trying to postpone the inevitable by pleading for a little more time, feeling that his father is giving up, and maybe if he can prove to his father that no one gives up regardless of his or her disposition then his father will be able to get off his deathbed. His final plea to his father ends the poem, giving a passionate, but ultimately hopeless expression, “Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (19)  

     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 lighthearted 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.

Comments

Achyut on August 22, 2020:

lOVELY EXPLANATION , tHANKS!

Luvo Ndlebe on June 25, 2020:

what a lovely and excellent explanation.

Fee Sadath on June 04, 2020:

Perfect explanation. Thank you

Rafael on April 01, 2020:

Excellent-splendid!

Ratnesh on March 06, 2020:

Nice analysis

Sarah on February 26, 2020:

Wonderful, thank you so much for analyzing this poem. It was really hard for me to understand what the author meant.

Alhagiesalif on February 24, 2020:

I was thinking differently before reading this quite sensible analysis in my opinion and now I am thinking differently again altogether.

This helps!

Stephanie, teacher. on February 21, 2020:

I always look at this poem as Thomas' not accepting his father's coming death! He wants him to fight it no matter what...'do not go into that gentle good night!'

Dumbledore on January 29, 2020:

Thank you. The analysis really helped me for my poem assessment.

youssef on December 15, 2019:

the analysis is very good and helpful. thank you so much

shannon briggs on November 11, 2019:

logan’s going to go back and film dead people in a forest

Sarah on November 06, 2019:

Really helped me with my English Essay, and understanding the meaning behind the poem.

Maya on October 26, 2019:

This was the pretty good! I would give it a 9/10

Chris Chan Chak Cheong on October 24, 2019:

excellent analysis ! it helped me to get a high mark in my englit essay

kavuma lawrence on October 10, 2019:

honestly helped in my esaay analysis and now im ready for the papers..... thnks

Hot Tamale on September 23, 2019:

Really helped my essay for english!!

Annonymous on August 06, 2019:

Your analysis is really good ! Helped me pick out the details i never realised

Dilrukshi Foster on July 17, 2019:

Very good analysis. Good job. I understood it in a totally different way. Your analysis helped me a lot.

GORDEN on June 10, 2019:

Excellent analysis

Kani on May 24, 2019:

Thank you so much! very helpful. My professor explained it in class at least twice and I did not understand at, but now I do. Thanks alot!

Emily on April 21, 2019:

this is amazing and helped me soooo much!!!

Shadrach on February 06, 2019:

Good job

Sanaa Murray on January 31, 2019:

This is really good.

Joelle on January 23, 2019:

President Trump tweeted we should not "go gentle into that good night". No more apt literary reference could be applied at this historical juncture of The United States of America. Pray christians. Stand patriots.

labandoyakubu on December 29, 2018:

that's a great analysis...thanks

Jeanie on November 09, 2018:

Excellent explication!

Ranae on October 10, 2018:

Real good

sanele on August 22, 2018:

good work...nice and easily understand

Nate on July 21, 2018:

Nice work

Nico on July 05, 2018:

Actually, it is necessary to underline that his father was blind when he died. It emphasizes then much more on the last personality !

Nico on July 04, 2018:

Actually, it is necessary to underline that his father was blind when he died. It emphasizes then much more on the last personality !

rk on June 25, 2018:

really it works and easy to understand

Bob on June 14, 2018:

I like your comment and I like you

reshma on June 03, 2018:

really it works...easy analysis. ..good job

JeremyC on May 29, 2018:

This helps the poem make more sense to me. It is a fine and moving work whatever the interpretation.

Shravan on May 25, 2018:

Great job

Anonymous on May 16, 2018:

Very well done

Anonymous on May 07, 2018:

Makes much more sense now. Thank you!!

me on May 03, 2018:

nice

Zed Zuni on May 02, 2018:

Excellent analysis, thank you.

Rhombi on April 04, 2018:

Pretty dope stuff

DAV on February 27, 2018:

Thank you so much for this analysis! It has really helped my assignment.

A on February 25, 2018:

The best analysis so far!

k on February 24, 2018:

wish you could just write my analysis for me, thanks for all the help

j on February 21, 2018:

wish you could just write my analysis for me, thanks for all the help

holycow on February 20, 2018:

wish you could just write my analysis for me, thanks for all the help

faryalsiddiqui on November 11, 2017:

very enlightening, thank you!

annonymous on December 12, 2016:

one of the best analyses out there thank you!

Mahesh Kate on December 07, 2014:

Nice analysis

Anupam on August 22, 2014:

Great analysis. Thank you.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on June 21, 2014:

Wonderful analysis of Thomas' poem and so poignant. I agree with your entire analysis of the poem. It is one of the greats and so often quoted. Thanks for your lesson!

sud on May 23, 2014:

really helpful!

His on March 26, 2014:

I had a test on this poem and could not understand a word, came to this website, found this awesome analysis and passed my test with flying colours. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Voidementor on February 26, 2014:

Superb analysis of the poem. Absolute class:)

Thx on December 08, 2013:

OMG, this helped me so much…

Thanks for the easy language and all of the explanations!

vaibhav singh on November 28, 2013:

what a nice description ...................

i loved it

Deepak on May 09, 2013:

This is great stuff..given in simple comprehensible english.. well divided and presented too... makes for great reading and understanding!!

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