Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Questions and Answers
by Dylan Thomas

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How can I analyze the poem "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas? What are the attitude, theme, and shifts of the poem?

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In analyzing the poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Nightyou must consider that the poem's overall statement is that people should battle death.  Because the author wants his father to hold off death as long as he possibly can, he creates this poetic argument stating that we must go to our graves kicking and screaming rather than letting death take us.  Due to the nature of the poem, the language moves from fiery, to logical, and in the end becomes pleading.  After all, the speaker has no power over the actions of the listener; he can only try to convince.  His success or failure is not indicated at the end.  

The poem is broken into six stanzas.  The first stanza introduces the metaphor of night representing death.  The second line of the first stanza indicates that the old should burn and rage against death rather than lay back and let it come. Thomas is arguing that those who are old shouldn't slip easily into death but should rather fight with everything they have.  

The tone shifts in the second stanza.  Rather than making the emotional statement of stanza one, Dylan has the speaker make a more rational argument.  The speaker begins talking about the knowledgeable man.  According to the speaker, wise men know that death cannot be cheated through philosophy; however, they also fight the end because they have not contributed enough and wish to make a more substantial impact on the world.  This argument is meant to be a proof that if wise men fight, so should the listener.  

The third stanza, like the second, is an example.  This time he talks about "good men" who have done good things.  These religious men should not fear the grave because they are right in the eyes of God—but in the end they too must fight because the good they have done is not enough.  Their good deeds cannot save them from inevitable death.  The water reference here is often interpreted as the nature of good men, who are like ocean waves and crash against the rocks in the end rather than continuing as rolling waves.  This is also an argument for the listener: no matter how good one is in the eyes of God, one should fight death to continue more works for their redemption.  

The fourth stanza refers to the actions of "wild men." Wild men are those who celebrate the passage of time or those who celebrate often.  These people, as said in the second line of the stanza, find out that their time was wasted on frivolity and they mourn the sunset.  This stanza, unlike the previous ones, seems to be more of a moral warning rather than a comment on the actions of others.  

The fifth stanza describes "grave men."  Grave is a beautiful pun in this section of the poem, since it talks about those who are so near death that they have lost their sight.  Because they have lost so much, they fight to retain...

(The entire section contains 986 words.)

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