Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Critical Overview
by Dylan Thomas

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Critical Overview

(Poetry for Students)

"Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" was first published in a collection of six poems, In Country Sleep. In A Reader's Guide to Dylan Thomas, William York Tindall points out that the "ritualistic repetition" of the refrain in the villanelle is the ideal expression for Thomas's theme. Tindall discusses each of the four types of men who face death in the stanzas, identifying the wise men as philosophers, the good men as moralists, and the wild men as hedonists. Grave men, he believes, are "the most important of all—the climax toward which the poet has been working." They represent poets, and ultimately Thomas's own father, who was blind in his last years. Tindall ends his comments with an ironic comparison between the sentiments expressed in the poem and Thomas's own death shortly after it was published.

Rushworth Kidder, in his Dylan Thomas: The Country of the Spirit, describes the work as Thomas's attempt to come to an understanding of death, as each of the poems revolves around an individual "confronting either the fact of or the threat of death...." Kidder states that the poet plays with the "metaphor of light as life" in "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." Since D. J. Thomas was an agnostic, Kidder stresses that religious imagery is left out of the poem. He argues instead that the actions of the men suggest pagan attitudes; for instance, the grave men could be seen as astrologers or seers.