Summary Of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas
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Dylan Thomas was Born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, Dylan Marlais Thomas, a Welsh poet, left school at 16 due to poor academic performance, focusing on English and literature. He gained early fame by winning a poetry contest and publishing his debut, “Eighteen Poems.” Notable for “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” he died at 39 on November 9, 1953, in New York City, attributed to excessive drinking.

Other Books Written by Dylan Marlais Thomas

Dylan Marlais Thomas, beyond his notable collection “Eighteen Poems,” authored several other works showcasing his poetic prowess. Some of his additional books include:

  1. “Twenty-Five Poems” (1936)
  2. “The Map of Love” (1939)
  3. “Deaths and Entrances” (1946)
  4. “The World I Breathe” (1939)
  5. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog” (1940) – A collection of prose stories
  6. “Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Stories” (1955) – Published posthumously

BACKGROUND OF THE POEM Titled Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” was written in 1947, two years after the Second World War, and this can be presumed as the belief that forms the poems theme of death, struggles, and sadness are a reflection of the tumultuous events that were experienced during this era. The poem is one of the most reckoned works of the poet. It was published in 1951.

It was widely accepted by critics that Dylan wrote this poem to motivate his then dying father, David John Thomas, who was his mentor and whose influence that greatly affect him. It was said that his father, at early stage had introduced the works of Shakespeare to him and his siblings that by age four. Dylan can
recite some of Shakespeare poem.

Dylan’s poem did not follow or conform to the complicated verse of the modernist poets of the 20th century, rather his poems were accessible such that they were used as tools to fight the mind set of the time, which perceived life as horrible and gloomy due to the adverse living condition all over the world. Then, life had lost its essence and death had become a normal thing. Dylan’s “Do Not go Gentle into That Good Night” advocates for a deviation from this accepted norm without a fight.


Dylan’s “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is written in a villanelle form.

Villanelles were a traditional poetic form of French. It became popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s in English language poetry. A villanelle is written in nineteen line-s that comprise six stanzas with Five stanzas having three lines each and the last stanza having four lines. Usually. a villanelle is written in iambic pentameter and so is “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.

Its rhyme scheme of this poem is ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA. Also two lines are repeated four times each this serving as a refrain.

Besides, the use of repetition of the two refrains “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” is one effective device. The two refrains work. musical miracles in the poem and keep emphasizing and deepening the theme of the poem. The first and third lines of the opening tercet alternate as a refrain in the four following tercets and the last two lines of the concluding quatrain. Such a demanding restriction requires poetic ingenuity to maintain a meaningful expression.

Here the form provides the poet with a suitable framework, for his four characteristic types-wise, good, wild, and grave men-and enables him to equate these types with his father’s character. This repetition expresses one of the major themes: one should not accept death without resistance.

Finally, it is important to note that Dylan’s “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night” conforms to the structure of the villanelle. but its content and subject matter is different from the ideal content of this type of poetry. A villanelle is derived from the Italian “villanella” which means peasant songs and dance or rustic songs and dance which are often concerned with a pastoral object. However. this pastoral object is missing in Dylan’s “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.

THEMES OF THE POEM Titled Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

The Unstoppable Nature of Death

Death is the prominent metaphor that figures living in the poem. “Do not go gentle into that good night” is inspired by Thomas‘s experience watching his father pass away. His grieving anger at the death has come to claim his father. it is in response to this inevitability of death that he urges people “not to go gentle” into death. Here, the word “gentle” means “docile.” or passive and without resistance. In other words, Thomas tells readers they should not accept death passively, but instead should fight (or rage) against it (“the dying of the light”). Although. the poet persona is wear of the inevitability of death and he thinks if you can‘t avoid dying. it‘s better to go down fighting than to not fight at all!

It‘s significant to note that although Thomas tells readers to struggle against death. this isn’t a poem about triumphing over death. The result of fighting death isn’t a victory. The people in the poem don’t cheat death to live another day. The truth is that the people Thomas mentions are dying-and they will die no matter what. Hence. “Do not go gentle into that good night” focuses on a person‘s literal final choice: not whether or not to die, but how they will face the inevitable.

The Power of Life

In “Do not go gentle into that good night,” Thomas creates tension between death which he speaks about symbolically through images of night and darkness and life, which he represents through images of light. For instance. in line 2, the reference to “close of the day.” simply means death and he also says that people should “burn” against it and as it is a known fact that burning elicits light.

The juxtaposition of two unlikely things here, emphasizes the contrast between life and death. If death is dark, and inevitable, then the juxtaposition helps readers see that life is powerful and full of energy.

Also. in Lines 7-8, there are two instances of light imagery these lines: “Good men, the last wave by, crying how brightf/Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay.”

The use of “bright” and “green bay” in these lines help describe the “good” man’s life, which is full of light and energy. After all. even though his deeds are “frail” which means “minor” or “insignificant” in this instance they still might have “danced.” In this line, we can see how the living is full of vital, powerful energy. Through this.,Thomas tells readers that the true tragedy of aging and death is that it takes away the vitality of life.


This is a very prominent theme in the poem as we see that Lines 3,9,15 and 19 solely dedicated to urging the reader to “rage” against dying, and the poem tells of several men who feel their lives are unfulfilled, but it does not offer any reason why raging might be more appropriate than despair or peaceful acceptance of the absurdity of death. Anger is heated emotion and the poet persona feels that struggle against death, is somewhat triumphing over death. Although, the result of fighting death isn’t a victory over death, yet stirs up the fighting spirit in them which is the only brilliant way to face the inevitable.

The Poet’s Love for his Father

The poem is a presentation of Thomas’s love for his father. His father had been his mentor and he doesn’t want death to take him and his anger towards the physical degeneration his father experienced cannot be quantified. Also, his unfettered love for his father explains why the poem advocates a form of resistance towards death although realizing that it is inevitable. Dylan’s father, David John Thomas, had played a major role in mentoring Dylan Thomas and his siblings. He mentored them and exposes them to Williams Shakespeare’s works that by the age of four, Thomas was able to recite parts of some of Shakespeare’s”sonnets. Dylan who had known his father to be energetic and full |of life and seeing him suffers from a myriad of diseases was unsettling. Therefore, these physical and psychological changes in his father’s body are the motivations that birth the poem urging him to fight for life.



The use of Imagery is presented through the use of the language of sense experience in Dylan’s Do not go gentle into that Good night”, it is worthy of note that there are several kinds of imageries that can be deployed in a poem such as visual imagerry, auditory imagery, olfactory imagery, gustatory imagery. tactile imagery, organic imagery, and kinesthetic imagery. Among them. is visual imagery which occurs most frequently in the poem “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.

For instance. in stanza two. the persona tells that “wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning”, Forked lightning is a kind of lightning that is in the line of light that divides into several smaller lines near the bottom. In this perspective. the persona points out the wise men’s attitude towards death, i.e they know death is inevitable and they are wise enough to continue to leave a mark. in their life by “their words” before they could influence this world. The words of the wise men reveal their failure to make some influence on the world.


The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words are seen in Line 3, 9, 19 “Rage. rage”, in line ‘10 “sang…sun”, in line ‘11 (learn…..late) in line 8 (Deeds…..danced) etc.


The use of “good night” is a play on words as can be associated with two meanings that are, farewell and death. The poet plays on these meanings to disseminate the message that people should not be willing to bid goodbye to life. Also. the use of “grave men” in the poem is another noticeable use of the pun. The “grave” could mean that the men are serious individuals or are near death.


The expression “blinding sight” as used in the poem in line 13 is an example of an oxymoron. These are two contradicting words placed side by side to reflect the overwhelming certainty of death approaching. Another use of oxymoron is in line 17 “Fierce tears”.


In the first line of the first tercet, the poet uses night as a metaphor for death, Then “close of the day” and “dying of the light”, the synonymous phrases of the night are repeated in the next two lines of the first tercet.

The night is the end of one”s life and it represents death, while the day is the lifespan of one”s life and it represents life.

In the second tercet, the metaphor of night as death continues, but this time the poet uses dark, which is closely related tonight as a metaphor for death. In the third tercet, “the sun in flight” is a part of the extended metaphor in which day is a circle of life and the flying of the sun represents the bright and beautiful part of life. “The sun in flight” also represents life is short and transient.


The poet deploys the use of simile as seen in line two of the fifth tercet of the poem: “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay”. This explains that when the grave men are near death. though they could not see clearly. they still try their best to see the world.

The poet compares the blind eyes of grave men to meteors rather than extinguishing candles. This comparison is ill-matched. and the poet uses this ill-matched comparison on purpose to represent grave men’s attitude towards death: though they know they will die, they still see with a twinkle in their eyes and see as much as they can before death.


The use of symbol in the poem “Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night” is Imagnanimous. The poet employs many symbols such as ‘”Good night” in the first line of the first tercet symbolizes death or after-life.

“Close of day” as used in the poem symbolizes end of life and “light” in the “dying of the light” symbolizes life. spirit. or soul. Th e “sad height” in the last tercet symbolizes the closeness of death.


The tone of the poem can be described as despair through its passionate plea of a son to his dying father.

The mood is filled with anger and defiance. the poet persona is angry at the helpless situation death brings and believed that the only way to counter this feeling is by opposing death though it is inevitable.

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