Saturday, May 10, 2008

Close Reading of " Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"

Dylan Thomas' " Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" (

Close reading of the first two stanzas:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night" (lines 1-6)

The first thing I noticed about these first two stanzas was the fact that every line has exactly ten syllables, and the importance of day/light and night, which are naturally contrasted in the words themselves, and by the fact that they stand out, being the last words ( except for line5) of each line. The mentioning of not going into "that good night" is significant as it is repeated multiple times throughout the poem- the word “night” signifies darkness, which brings about thoughts of the unknown, unconscious, and more importantly for this poem, death and ultimate ending. The fact that Thomas calls it a "good night" is a pun. He wants his father to not go easily into that "good night" as in the expression "goodnight", the simple saying of goodbye for the day. If his father gives into the saying “goodnight” then he is acknowledging the end. It’s interesting that Thomas sets up the words so that they can mean this expression which signifies a simple parting at the end of the day, which, seems to be a light way of referring to death. However, if you read “good night” as two separate words, it implies that the night is good, which may indicate how alluring the night, the end, is, under harsh conditions. The speaker of the poem makes a case against simply going willingly, gently into the night, instead of fighting it. He seems to be looking at other’s reactions to death, in order to set his own expectations for life and death. In the second line he says, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day”, and in the entire second stanza he speaks of wise men and their unwillingness to go gently into the night because they had not gotten to fulfill their goals and intentions during life. It’s interesting that Thomas speaks of not being able to complete life and fully live it out ( giving the impression that something else is needed before one can die), yet each stanza is composed of perfect pentameter, showing completeness and nothing lacking.

1 comment:

jaccoma said...

I really enjoyed reading this one.