What is the tone of "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night"?

The tone of "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" is one of defiance, specifically towards death.

Expert Answers

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

A poem's tone is expressed through the attitude or emotional state of its speaker. "Do Not Go Gentle into That God Night" has an unusual tone, being defiant towards death rather than accepting or resigned.

The conventional poem about death often urges the reader and whomever the speaker is addressing to face death with gentle acceptance as God's will and as a transition to a better place where they will be greeted by loved ones. However, the speaker in this poem angrily denounces the idea of peacefully accepting one's end.

Using apostrophe, which is the direct address of an absent person or object, the speaker tells his father not to die in a "gentle" way. Instead, he urges his father to defy death. The speaker repeats the refrain:

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The speaker's grief and lack of acceptance of losing his father is revealed in his tone of fierce advice to him to fight as hard as he can to stay alive. Active, fiery images communicate this defiant tone. The speaker urges his father to be like "wild men" who "caught and sang the sun in flight." He then invokes the image of

Blind eyes [that] could blaze like meteors and be gay.

By using examples of other men who fought to stay alive in fiery ways, the speaker expresses his desire that his father mount the same kind of fierce resistance.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The tone of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" can best be determined by its last stanza. In the last stanza of the poem, we realize that the speaker of the poem is addressing his dying father. The tone here is desperate pleading as the speaker urges his father not "to go gentle into that good night" but to "rage, rage against the dying of the light." We realize that up to this point the speaker has been giving examples of various types of men--wise men, good men, grave men, wild men--all of whom refuse to believe that their lives have reached fulfillment and completion. These examples are all used to persuade the speaker's father that he should continue to fight to live, that he should not passively resign himself to death, that there still is unfinished work to be done.

The tone of the poem throughout is loving, sad, and insistent, becoming more and more intense as the speaker progresses to the end when he directly addresses his father. He deeply wants any emotional response from his father--"curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray." The speaker refuses to accept the fact that the struggle against death may be too much for the father and demands that the father do more to battle sickness and old age. The speaker is not able to let his father die.

Posted on

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