According to Dylan Thomas in the poem, "Do No Go Gentle Into That Good Night," how should people behave when they are faced with death?  

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cathibee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas, the poet appears to suggest that people who are faced with death should rebel against this inevitable end. The poem focuses especially on death occurring after a long life, recommending that those in old age should "rage", "rave," and "burn" at the idea of dying.

The two most repeated refrains in the poem occur as the first and third lines in the first stanza.  This stanza also contains the main premise of the poem, summarizing how people should react to the idea of leaving life.

The first line, "Do not go gentle into that good night" is also the title of the poem and could therefore be considered at the heart of all the poet's other statements. The first part of the line, "Do not go gentle" can be viewed in quite literal terms. Thomas is suggesting that human beings should not mildly accept what is about to happen to them. "That good night" is a metaphor for death. The images of darkness and night are frequently used to stand for death or some other calamity or crisis in poetry. 

The third line, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" uses repetition. Repeating the word "rage" indicates the poet's strong feelings about his recommendation. He emphasizes the idea that those who are dying should not only rebel against it, but do so violently, by "raging." This line creates unity in the first stanza by repeating the main point the first line makes in somewhat stronger terms. The emphasis of "rage" also serves to connect this stanza to the rest of the poem.

The second line, "Old age should burn and rave at close of day" forms a connection between line 3 and 5 by qualifying and explicating the first line while creating a platform for intensification in the third line. Line 2 indicates "old age" as one of the common human features preceding death. "Old age" is also personified to indicate "those who are old" and the ways in which they should not be "gentle;" they should "burn and rave" when faced with death. Like "night" and "dying of the light," "close of day" is another metaphor for death, where "day" and "light" are an almost "built-in" contrast to signify life.

In the rest of the poem, Thomas provides several examples of those who have or should "not go gentle" and "rage." In the final stanza, the poem comes full circle by repeating both refrains. It also serves a clarifying purpose by indicating that the central recommendation of the poem to "rage" against dying is directed at the poet's father.

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