Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night By Dylan Thomas


Central Idea:‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ was published in 1951. It is a personal poem written for the poet’s own father, who lay dying. The poet wants his father not to give in but to struggle against impending death. The poem is a protest against the idea of accepting death stoically the way most religions and philosophies of the world advocate while admitting the inevitability of death, the poet exhorts us to play the warrior, struggling to save life till the last. Thus the poem is a protest against those philosophies that advocate accepting death calmly and stoically. The poet believes in struggling against death and trying to remain alive as long as one can. No doubt, death is reality. It is inevitable. But we should not bow to the inevitable without giving a struggle. We should play the warrior in our struggle against death. So this poem is a protest against the conventional acceptance of death. In this poem, death has been seen as a kind of challenge. Man must accept this challenge and fight against it. This poem deals with philosophic contemplation.


Short Summary to the Poem


‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’ is a famous poem by Dylan Thomas. It was published in 1951. It is a personal poem written for the poet’s own father, who lay dying. Perhaps, the father had accepted his death very passively and was considering himself already dead. But the poet wants his father not to give in but to struggle against impending death. The poet gives the examples of all sorts of people to encourage his father. He gives the example of wise men, good men, wild men and even deeply religious men.

First of all the poet describes the reaction of the wise men towards death. Wise men know that death is inevitable. Even then they do not bow to their death passively. In their old age, they do not dismay even if their words or writings have failed to bring any enlightment among people. They keep their spirits up till the end of their life.

Good men spend all their life in doing good deeds. When they are close to death, they realise that their deeds have been too weak to produce any effect. They are filled with regret that they derived no enjoyment from life. So they want to sing and dance in their old age. They also fight against death.

Wild men are the opposite of good men. They spend all their youth in the pursuit of pleasures. And when old age comes they realise that they have misused their youth. So they try to give themselves to some noble work. Such men also do not go gentle into that good night.

The poet says that religious men have a premonition of death in their old age. Yet they do not give themselves quietly to death. They make every struggle against the dying of the light.

To conclude we can say that this poem is a courageous rebellion against death. The poet says:

Do not go gentle into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.

The poet advises us not to submit to death meekly. Death is inevitable, but man should put up a heroic struggle against death. He should not make the moment of his death tame by surrendering to death gently. It is in his fight with death that man show his love of life. He should express his anger and grief through tears at the disappearance of the light of life from this world.


Questions and Answers


1. What is the tone of the poem?

The poem’s tone is one of anger and persuasion. The speaker is urging readers to not succumb to death.

2. What is the “dying of the light”?

The dying of the night is a metaphor for death.

3. As the note above the poem suggests, it is an example of a villanelle. A villanelle is a poem consisting of 19 lines, but only two rhymes. It also repeats two lines throughout the poem. Why do you think Thomas has chosen to write his poem following the traditional form of a villanelle?

Answers may vary. Example: Thomas writes a villanelle to show the constrictions placed on men by death. By writing his poem about rebellion in a constricting form, its theme is reinforced.

4. According to the first stanza, what does the speaker seem to be asking? Put your response in your own words.

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker is saying that you should fight against dying and that old age should not be a reason to give in to death.

5. What kind of men should rage against the dying of the light? What four types of men does Thomas address?

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Thomas addresses “wise men,” “good men,” “Wild men,” and “grave men.”

6. Consider the punctuation used in the first two lines of the poem’s last stanza. What do the caesurae (commas) suggest about the speaker’s feelings toward his father?

The commas separate the speaker’s ideas and add a feeling of spontaneity to the words. The second line, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray” does not suggest that the speaker wants to be cursed and blessed by his father, but rather that he has cursed, blessed, and prayed for his father. The speaker, the son, is forced to live with the pain of the dead father: “me now with your fierce tears.”

Examination–Style Questions

Critical Commentary or Reference to the Context/Explanation

Lines 1—6

Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’. This poem has been written by Dylan Thomas. In this poem the poet believes in struggling against death and trying to remain alive as long as one can. No doubt, death is reality. It is inevitable. But we should not bow to the inevitable without giving a struggle. We should play the warrior in our struggle against death. He cites many examples in this context.

Explanation: In these lines the poet says that death is inevitable. But the poet exhorts us to play the warrior, struggling to save life till the last, wisemen know that death is inevitable. They know that death is a fact which cannot be denied. Even then they do not go gentle into that good night. It means they do not accept death passively. They do not dismay even if their words or writings have failed to produce any illumination among the people. They want to be known by people in their life time because after death their deeds may look very small. They think that if they could live longer, they would spread their good deeds to the world. So they fight angrily against the fading light of life. They keep their spirits up to the end of their life. As this poem is addressed to the poet’s father who lay dying, the poet wants his father to rage and rage against the dying of the light.

Lines 7—12

Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’. This poem has been written by Dylan Thomas. In this poem the poet believes in struggling against death and trying to remain alive as long as one can. No doubt, death is reality.It is inevitable. But we should not bow to the inevitable without giving a struggle. We should play the warrior in our struggle against death. He cites many examples in this context.

Explanation: In these lines the poet says that good men spend their life by doing noble deeds. But when they are near death they realize how ineffective their deeds have been. They regret that they wasted the happy hours of their life in doing serious work only. They did not spend the life on eating, drinking and being merry. So when they are very close to their death they want to sing and dance. They rage and rage against death. They struggle with all their might to keep the light of their life alive.

Then the poet takes the example of wild men who are the opposite of good men. They spend all their youth period in seeking pleasures. They enjoy the life of eating, drinking and being merry. They pass their youthful days in singing, dancing and merry making. When their, this period of pleasure, that is youth, is past, they start grieving that they have misused it. Now they try to do good deeds. Then such men also do not go gentle into that good night. It means they also do not accept death passively. They struggle against death to their last breath. The poet means to say that nobody wants to die. Everybody wants to live a long life.

Lines 13—18

Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’. This poem has been written by Dylan Thomas. In this poem the poet believes in struggling against death and trying to remain alive as long as one can. No doubt, death is reality. It is inevitable. But we should not bow to the inevitable without giving a struggle. We should play the warrior in our struggle against death. He cites many examples in this context.

Explanation: In these lines the poet says that wild people lead a life of pleasure. But the serious minded people are proud and arrogant. But at the end of their lives, their eyes cannot see clearly. Their eyes become dim. Now they realize that nothing can stop death. Yet they hope to live. They wish that their eyes could regain their light and shine like bright stars. They want to fight against death to their last breath. The grave men see that if they had kept their eyes open to the light of life, they could have been happy. Religious men, when they are nearing their death, have a premonition of it. They know when their death is coming. Yet they do not give themselves quietly to death. The poet says that even those people who have no such premonition remain happy in their life till the last moment. They do not worry about death since they do not know when it will come. And when it comes, they struggle against it till the end.

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The poet wants his father also not to give in to death, but struggle against it. He knows that death is inevitable. Yet one must struggle against it. The poet asks his father to bless him or curse him as he likes with all his emotion. But he should not just lie down and wait helplessly for death. He should rage and rage against the dying of the light. The poet prays to God who sits high above in heaven. He says that even God feels sad when He sees death on this earth. God may bless man with joys or curse him with sorrows. But the poet prays to him to show sympathy for man’s love for life. God should shed tears at man’s heroic fight against death. The poet once again advises readers not to accept death gently. He should fight against death till the end.

Comprehensions Questions

(Lines 1—9)

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.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Questions

1.Who wrote these lines and who are they addressed to?
Ans. These lines are written by Dylan Thomas, and they are addressed to the poet’s father who lay dying.

2. What is meant by ‘good night’ in these lines?
Ans. In these lines ‘good night’ means death, when man says ‘good night’ to the world and dies.

3. What does the poet say about good men?
Ans. When good men are near the end of their life, they know how ineffective their deeds have been. They regret that they wasted the happy hours of their life in doing serious work only and never enjoyed themselves.

4. What do wise men know at their end?
Ans. At their end wise men know death is a fact which cannot be denied. Even then they do not accept death passively.

5. Explain the line: ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’.
Ans. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ means we must not accept death quietly and humbly. We should not go into that good night gently. We must struggle hard to live.

Lines 10-19

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Questions

1. What do wild men learn too late?
Ans. Wild men spend all their youth in the pursuit of pleasures. When their youth is past, they start grieving that they have misused it.

2. What common thing does the poet point out between wild men and grave men?
Ans.The poet points out that both wild and grave men do not go gentle into the good night. They struggle to keep alive as long as they can.

3. Explain the phrase: On the sad height’.
Ans.‘On the sad height’ means death is inevitable, yet one must struggle against it till the end.

4. Who do grave men see near their death?
Ans.Grave men have a premonition of death in their old age. They know when their death will come. Yet they do not give themselves quietly to death.

5. What does the poet exhort his father to?

Ans.The poet exhorts his father not to give in to death, but struggle against death till the end.

Short-Answer Questions

Q. 1. In what sense is the poem an acceptance as well as defiance of death? Explain the central idea of the poem.

Ans. The theme of the poem is courageous rebellion against death. The poet advises us not to submit to death meekly. Death is inevitable, but man should put up a heroic struggle against death. The central idea of the poem is clearly brought out in the last two lines:

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‘Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.

The poet wants his father not to give in but to struggle against impending death. The poem is a protest against the idea of accepting death stoically the way most religions and philosophies of the world advocate. While admitting the inevitability of death, the poet exhorts us to play the warrior, struggling to save life till the last.

Q. 2. Explain in detail the poet’s idea of heroism in facing death?

Ans. ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’ is a protest against the idea of accepting death stoically the way most religions and philosophies of the world advocate. While admitting the inevitability of death, the poet exhorts us to play the warrior, struggling to save life till the last. The poet believes that man should play the hero against death. He should fight it with all his might. It is true that death has come at last. It spares no one. But we must try toward it off for as long as we can. We should not let it overtake us so easily. The poet says:

Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage, against the dying of the light’.

So these lines clearly show the poet’s idea of heroism in facing death.

Essay Type Questions

Q. 1. How do different men react to the inevitability of death?

Ans. In ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ Dylan Thomas shows that different people react differently to the inevitability of death. They are deeply religious men, the wild men, the good men and the wise men.

The poet says that no person accepts death meekly. Religious men have a premonition of death in their old age. They know when their death will come. Yet they do not give themselves quietly to death. They make every struggle against the dying of the light.

After religious men the poet takes up the wild men how they react towards death. Wild men are the opposite of good men. They spend all their youth in the pursuit of pleasures. And when old age comes, they realize that they have misused their youth. So they try to give themselves to some noble work. Thus such men also do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men spend all their life in doing good deeds. When they are close to death, they realize that their deeds have been too frail to produce any effect. They are filled with regret that they derived no enjoyment from life. So they want to sing and dance in their old age. So they also fight against death. And in the last the poet describes the reaction of wise men towards death. Wise men know that death is inevitable. Even then they do not bow to their death passively. In their old age, they do not dismay even if their words or writings have failed to bring any enlightment among people. They keep their spirits up till the end of their life. They do not go gentle into that good night. In this way the poet concludes the poem by describing all kinds of people’s struggle bravely against death. So the poet says to his father not to give in but to struggle against impending death. The poet says:

Do not go gentle into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.

Q. 2. Trace the development of ideas in Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night’.

Ans. See the central idea.

Objective Type Questions

Q. 1. Who is the writer of the poem ‘Do not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’.

Ans. Dylan Thomas.

Q. 2. How should old age behave at the time of death?

Ans. Old age should burn with anger and fight against death.

Q. 3. Who do the good men cry about?

Ans. They cry that their actions might have flourished if the conditions had been favourable.

Q. 4. What do the wisemen learn at the time of death?
Ans. They learn that death is reality.

Q. 5. What do wild men learn too late?

Ans. They learn too late what they suffered in their lives.

Q. 6. What do grave men see near death?

Ans. They see that if they kept their eyes open to the light of life, they could have been happy.

Q. 7. What is meant by dying of the light? Ans. It means death.

Q. 8. What does the poet pray to his father?

Ans. The poet prays to his father that he should curse or weep. But he should not accept death meekly.

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