Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (explication)
In the poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Dylan Thomas writes about facing death. Death is the adversary, against which one must fight. Thomas uses simile, metaphor, and diction to evoke powerful images that support this idea.
The theme of the poem is that one should enjoy life as long as possible, and not passively accept death’s arrival. In describing old age, Thomas says “Do not go gentle into that good night.” He then explores the contrast between the natural symbols of light and dark. Since they traditionally stand, respectively, for “good” and “bad,” night is a symbol of death, signaling an ending. It sequesters one away from the light.
Throughout the poem Thomas describes four types of men, who have lived four different lives, but in the end all want more of life. This is a universal wish among mankind. “Crying how bright their frail deeds might have danced” (7) implies that one may fight to live because he has not lived up to his potential. “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors” (14) shows that many men, facing death, suddenly realize that they could have had a much greater impact on the world. Even wise men, who realize that death is inevitable, are still not ready to sink into the uncertain darkness. The similes and metaphors paint life in brilliant light.
The diction in this poem relies on repetition. After each example of men fighting against death, Thomas drives the poem along by reinforcing his point. Lines 1 and 3 appear alternately in stanzas 2-5 and repeat again in the last stanza. The aba format has a soothing rhythm that flows like the passage of time. In the final stanza he specifically addresses not the reader but his father. It is as if his father was formerly just one of the audience, but now is the sole member. The tone changes from an persuasive speech to a heartfelt plea.
Diction and figurative language are the key elements in this poem. They convey the emotion behind this piece, which is both a philosophical standpoint on death and an exhortation from son to father. While there are no great exclamations at any point, the quiet insistence with which he speaks cause the words to sink deeply into the soul.
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