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Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

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Dylan Thomas is considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. During a time when most poets chose to write about social or political issues of the day, Thomas instead chose to write about his own passionate emotions and thoughts. One of his most well known poems is "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night" (Wikipedia). The poem is a passionate cry to his father, who has become weak and blind in his old age. Thomas' use of poetic form and word choice help greatly to convey his message to the reader.

Unlike two other poems written at the same time, "Both Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed" and "Elegy", which promote peace and calm as a means to ease suffering, "Do Not Go Gentle" calls for a raging refusal to accept death easily (BBC). Thomas' father, David Thomas, or "D.J." as he was better known, was a writer and schoolteacher. He was known most for being a very militant and robust man, but as he aged, however, he became very sickly. This was no doubt hard for his son to understand and deal with, especially since they had such a close relationship (Tremlett 30). In his poem, Dylan desperately encourages his father to "not go gentle into the good night" meaning do not accept death so easily (Thomas 128). Although D.J. frequently read the Bible, he was an atheist. Such a belief can explain the absence of any reference to Christianity or God in the poem (BBC).

Thomas wrote the poem in the form of a villanelle. A villanelle is made up of four to five triplets followed by a single quatrain. The first and third lines of the villanelle also alternate as the last verse of the triplets. They were originally used for light, pastoral verses in France, making it ironic that Thomas chose to use it to address the very serious theme of death. It is also interesting to note how the strict form of the poem contradicts the ardent message it contains. One of the main reasons Thomas may have chosen to use this specific style is the repetition of the two lines "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light", both of which convey his main idea. By continually saying either line, he really imprints the reader with his thoughts in the poem (Grimes).

One of the main strengths of the poem is that it is easily understandable, especially when compared to Thomas' other poems, which use obscurity and exaggerated metaphor. That simplicity comes Thomas' realization as a playwright for the need for economy and the ability to speak to the masses of people (Sinclair 118). In the poem, Thomas uses various understandable metaphors for death such as the "good night", "close of day", and the "dying of the light." The reader can notice that, in the poem, Thomas likens life and death to light and dark, respectively. The paradox in line 17, "Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray", is very well used. Thomas here portrays himself as so desperate that he will take just about any reaction from his father so long as it requires ferocity or strength.

D.J.

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