Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

The Author

Dylan Thomas was born in South Wales in 1914. He grew up surrounded by the influences of Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe as his father was an English Literature professor. He developed his love for poetry because of these influences. His most famous pieces include Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and And Death Shall Have No Dominion. Thomas was a heavy drinker towards the end of his life and died at the age of 39.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

This poem narrates the approaching death of a man. The voice of the poem does not accept this approaching death ans encourages the man to keep fighting. The voice does this by reiterating two phrases. The first being, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." The persona wants the man to fight to stay alive and not give into the darkness that is death. The second phrase is, "Do not go gentle into that good night." The phrase has along the same meaning as the first one. It is telling the man that he should not accept his fate and pass on. He needs to keep fighting. The death of the man is inevitable, but that does not mean he should give up on life. The voice urges the man to stay strong and not fade into the darkness. The poem is powered mainly by the amount of emotion that is conveyed through the words. There is a sense of urgency that makes the poem seem desperate. At the end of the poem, it is revealed that the man is the persona's father.

The poem uses of the villanelle poetic form. This consists of nineteen lines. The first five stanzas contain three lines, while the last stanza contains four lines. The repeating phrases are placed as the first and third lines of the poem, and then alternately at the end of each stanza. This form of poem helps the piece flow. The repetition reiterates the main point of the poem, to keep the man fighting.

The poem uses many poetic devices, some of the most prominent being symbolism and alliteration. Thomas refers to death as "that good night". This symbol is used throughout the poem as inspiration for the man to survive. If he can survive through "that good night", he will make it to a new day. Alliteration is used as Thomas writes, "go gentle into that good night."

Author's Connection

Dylan Thomas published this piece in 1951. While his father did not die until 1952, Dylan Thomas' father was definitely a large influence of this piece. Thomas grew up with his father reciting Shakespeare and other famous works. This is where he gained his love of poetry and literature. His father also had the dream of being a poet, but never quite reached his goal. Dylan Thomas faced many years of struggle and strife before he gained success and acknowledgement for his works. He writes the piece as though he is at the foot of his own father's deathbed, the man that inspired him to follow his own dream. The large amount of emotion in the piece is genuine as he imagines his own father dying. His father died within the next year due to a bout of pneumonia. Thomas was already regarded as a heavy drinker. The reality of his father's death never quite resonated with him. Dylan Thomas eventually went on a drinking binge and died at the age of 39.

Cultural/Historical Context

Dylan Thomas was born in the year 1914, the same year World War I began. He was born in Swansea, Wales. England at this time had its own linguistic and cultural heritage that can be viewed in some of Thomas' works. This piece does not display that much influence, but his play "Under Milk Wood" shows a lot of this influence. Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night was written in 1951. The piece can be interpreted as relating to World War II, which ended only six years prior. It depicts death and the fight to survive. Soldiers during battle would fight for their lives and would not give in to death easily. Soldiers that made it home would be plagued with fear and trauma from the war, and yet they also refused to give into the pull of death.

"Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Created By
Natalie Goris


Created with images by Jaykhuang - "Milk to the Crack" • stux - "moon cypress mountains"

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