What kind of strategies does Dylan Thomas employ to affect the reader in his poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"?
I am writing an essay about the affect of the aforementioned poem. I am discussing three affects, 1) reject conventional approach to death (peaceful acceptance), 2) acknowledge that emotionality is part of our humanity, and 3) live life to the fullest. What strategies does Thomas use to make the reader feel these things?
As you state in your question, Dylan Thomas, in his poem "Do Not Go Gently Into that Good Night," rejects the convential passive approach to death.
One of the ways that Thomas emphasizes this point is both extremely simple and extremely effective: he repeats it, in identical words, numerous times. Each stanza of the poem contains either the phrase "Do not go gentle into that good night," or "Rage, rage against the dying of that good night." This simple technique of repetition--known as anaphora--helps Thomas to hammer home his point in memorable fashion.
Thomas expresses one of your other points--that people should live their lives to the fullest--through the use of several striking images. There are:
"Wise men...[whose] words had forked no lightning";
"Good men...[whose} deeds might have danced in a green bay";
"Grave men...[whose] eyes could blaze like meteors."
These images are much more interesting and memorable than simply saying, "Live life to the fullest."
Your other point, that emotionality is part of our humanity, is--of course--a major theme of the poem.
The poem is about people who, logically speaking, have nothing more to live for. They have arrived at "old age," "at [the] close of day"; they are "at their end"; they are "near death."
Yet, the poet urges them to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." He does not mean that they should seek some miracle treatment for their ailments. Rather, he is urging them to react to death with a vigorous emotion of rebellion.
In his villanelle, which normally has an idyllic sentiment, Thomas addresses his father in second person, urging him to reject conventionality, just as he reject the conventional form of the villanelle. Using the imperative mood and the commanding voice, the poet tells his father to "Fight to the last gasp" as written in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I.
In the second stanza Thomas uses the unusual metaphor of "forked no lightning." Forked lighting is a phenonmenon that commands attention, so when the wise men realize that they no longer draw attention, they still "do not go gentle into that good night." Here Thomas uses the phrase "do not go gentle" in a declarative, rather than imperative phrase while he continues his persuasive argument to his father.
To continue his argument of raging against death, Thomas tells his father that good men have had the foresight of the wise men to not give up in the face of death. Wild men have learned too late, and lament their lack of foresight, yet even they do not "go gently into the night." Finally, grave men ""who see with blinding sight," with insight, that all have "raged against the dying of the light," they, too do not easily die. So, too, should his father emulate them, and love his family enough to fight against death.
With Thomas's use of the imperative mood and unconventional form and sentiments, he makes his point of the wiseness and goodness of fighting against death.
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.