The poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, by Dylan Thomas is a son’s supplication to his perishing father. The son, who is the speaker in this poem, outlines the theme that everyone faces the inevitable circumstance of death but you should fight for your life and embrace the last moments of life one last time with passion and rage. In this analysis, the poem will be analyzed stanza by stanza discussing the symbolism, the imagery, the literary devices, and how it ties into the overall theme of the poem.
In the first stanza, the line “Do not go gentle into that good night,” (line 1) is spoken, and in this context, it is used as a metaphor for dying or death which is also one of the biggest themes in the poem. At the end of the poem, it is revealed that the speaker is addressing this message to his father and insisting upon him to “rave at close of day;” (line 2) or to fight against death and darkness. The second line in the poem symbolizes the end of someone’s time on earth and the line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (line 3) or more specifically the “light” symbolizes an individual’s spirit or their life. When the speaker says “Old ages should burn and rave at close of day.” (line 2) it gives the message that just because you’re old and frail, it doesn’t mean you should just accept death with ease but instead end your life with fulfillment knowing you fought to live your life to the fullest. The use of imposing two very contrasting things like “light and “dark” really close together throughout the poem illustrates a juxtaposition. It clearly highlights the imagery of life and death and the contrast between the unavoidable and dark side of dying with the beautiful and bright side of living which allows the reader to understand the power one’s life holds and how fulfilling and energetic it can be which is why the speaker, or the son, in the poem is telling his father to fight for his life and make the last moments count.
In the second stanza of the poem, the speaker introduces the first group of people that he talks about which are the “wise men”. He says “Though wise men at their end know dark is right;” (line 4) implies these men know and accept the fact that death will be upon them one day or another. However, moving forward to lines 5 and 6 he says “Because their words have forked no lightning they / Do not go gentle into that good night.” which goes along with the theme of the poem that you have to fight against death especially if you, like the wise men, feel as though you have not gained the full potential of your life. The line “their words have forked no lightning” (line 5) is a pathetic fallacy because the use of nature, the forked lightning, reflects the mood or feeling of these men because they feel as though they have not had a lasting impact on others which is why they should not want life to slip away from them so easily before leaving their mark.
In the third stanza, the speaker says “Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright / Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,” (lines 7-8) which conveys the rage these men have against death. When it says “the last wave by” this creates a visual image in your head that vividly depicts the motion of a large wave crashing onto a shore which symbolizes your last moments of life before death. The “good men” are pondering over their life as they know the end is approaching them. Line 7 could also alternatively be implying that “the last wave by” is a symbol for the last few good men in this world and how great they are needed. The son probably believed his father was a good man, therefore, emphasizing that his efforts are still relevant and needed in this world however he needs to live on for these good deeds to be remembered. “Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,” (line 8) describes how these “good men” have done good deeds in their life but regardless they will not be remembered. After a time of reflection on their past, they realize they must live on and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (line 9) to make sure they are remembered and leave a mark in history for others to reflect upon.
The fourth stanza starts with the line “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,” (line 10) which could be interpreted as a metaphor that “the sun in flight” serves as the circle of life and since the first line introduces the men as wild, they have realized that life doesn’t last forever and because they spent all of their lives without rest from the action, they “learn, too late, that they grieved it on its way,” (line 11) which could also symbolize the reality of their morality. It also emphasizes their actions and decisions alluding to the fact that they have wasted their life away because they “caught and sang the sun” which refers to how these men have lived their lives trying to chase more than they could catch. They are risk-takers and they spent all their lives fulfilling their need for excitement and adventure that they grieve now knowing they spent their lives foolishly. This relates to the theme of death is inevitable so live life to the fullest because even though these “wild men” know death is upon them they will refuse to allow it to take over their youthful souls and they seek more time to continue to scout out the adventure they so deeply cherish which falls into place with the last line in the stanza “Do not go gentle into that good night” (line 12).
The fifth stanza talks about “grave men” and how they are aware that death is near them yet despite the circumstances they want to experience whatever else they can in their life before it is over suggested in line 13 where it says “Grave men, near, death who see with blinding sight”. The use of a simile is applied in line 14 making a comparison between the “blind eyes” of these men to blazing meteors. This implies that although these “grave men” do not have a clear sight of the last few moments of their lives, they will try their best to be happy and completely immersed in what is left to come rather than just letting death take away the great moments that could occur before their end. Again the line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (line 15) is repeated from stanzas 1 and 3 going back to the theme that although there is a time limit on the life you shouldn’t let that take away the opportunities you still have while you’re living.
Lastly, in the sixth stanza instead of talking about a group of men this time and their experiences with death, it refers to the speaker’s father saying “And you, my father, there on the sad height,” (line 16). When the son says his father is “there on the sad height” it symbolizes how close he is to his death. The intentions of this last stanza become apparent because the speaker throughout the poem has been alluding to different types of men and how no matter their situations, they all end up fighting for their lives to make those last moments meaningful and the son proposes that his father should follow in the same direction. He says “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.” (line 17) which clearly shows the intense and passionate feelings of pain and distress the son is feeling towards his dying father which provokes him to beg at his father’s feet to fight for his life. The poem ends off with the two lines “Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (lines 18-19) which as we have seen is a repetition from all the previous stanzas.