In what ways does "Do Not Go Gentle Into This Good Night" affect the reader?I specifically am interested in learning about the affect Thomas wanted to have on the reader rather than understanding...

In what ways does "Do Not Go Gentle Into This Good Night" affect the reader?

I specifically am interested in learning about the affect Thomas wanted to have on the reader rather than understanding the meaning of his words.  How was he trying to affect the reader?  Thanks.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is apparent that Dylan Thomas does, indeed, wish his readers to be affected by his words.  For, there is strong encouragement to not accept death; the poet calls all to rage against death and not be complaisant when it bids them.  So vehement is this urging that this villanelle is written in the imperative mood with words of strong intent.  For instance, the very first stanza states that old age should fight death all the way to the end--

Old age should burn and rage at close of death

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thomas supports his contention that all should not die without a fight against the end by citing what "wise men," "good men," and "wild men" do when faced with death.  With light images, Thomas exhorts his readers to fight for the "lightning," the sun in flight," and the "blinding sight of meteors."  Not until the last flicker of life, the last flicker of the dying of the life, should people not rage against death, although it is a "good death" in the romantic sense of rest and peaceful darkness.

In his essay entitled "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night," Jhan Hochman discusses the pardoxical question, "Why rage against what is "good"?  He proposes that the advice of the poet is given for the benefit of Thomas himself rather than for his father (Thomas never sent the poem to him).  Thus, the word gentle may refer to his father.

Thus, concludes Hochman, "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" is a poem of paralysis and pain.  His answer to"Why rage against what is good, what cannot be avoided--death--"is that by struggling, by raging, the dying demonstrate their love of those who will be left behind.  This, contends Hochman, is "the kind of demonstration that Thomas wants so desperately from his father."

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I do not think that we really know how Thomas wanted to affect his readers.  I think that, instead, you need to think about how the poem actually affects you.  Alternatively, look at what he is saying and try to figure out how he wants you to feel (but I think it is hard to separate what you think he wants you to feel from how you do feel).

For me, this poem makes me hate the thought of dying.  It makes me feel that way because I think of all the things that I will not be able to accomplish before I die.  We humans are only given so much "light" here on Earth and there are so many things we want to do.  Because of that, the idea that I will have to leave Earth with so many things undone makes me angry.  I think that this is what Thomas was trying to get across.

Look at the link below for more themes from this poem...

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