In "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," what effect do the repetitions create?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dylan Thomas repeats alternating lines at the end of each stanza; they are "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" and "Do not go gentle into that good night."

Both lines are imperatives that the poem's speaker is delivering to his father; this is revealed in the poem's final quatrain after a series of five tercets. The repetitions of these lines add emphasis and urgency to the idea that his father must not passively accept his demise; he should, rather, battle to the last moments of his existence. The speaker seems to believe that life is precious and should not be given up without a fight. Moreover, the speaker creates a catalog of men (with "men" being another word that is repeated as a point of emphasis) who did not "go gentle" as a point of comparison and a behavior for his father to emulate. He expresses the wish that his father will also "burn and rave" as his last moments approach.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The repetition of the first and third lines of the poem impress the reader with the speaker's relative desperation that his father fight against death (we learn the narrator of the poem is speaking to his or her father in line 16). It sounds as though the speaker is trying to persuade his or her father that, although continuing to live might be painful or difficult, resisting death is the best thing, the right thing, to do. The speaker repeats these lines in the context of describing all different kinds of men—wise men, good men, wild men, and serious men (or men who are very near death, since "Grave" has two potential meanings here)—and all the different reasons that they choose to stay in "the light." This seems to be an attempt to convince the father that no one else goes "gentle into that good night," so neither should he.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial