Do not go gentle into the Good Night
Every person on Earth will die eventually and they all know that. How one views death,
however, varies with each individual. Some people, when they find themselves at death’s door,
do not fight against it. Other people, on the other hand, will do everything they possibly can to
live even just one more day. No matter how people view death, most of the time when it comes
down to losing someone that they love, they hopelessly want that person to keep living. Of
course, sometimes when a person suffers from a serious, painful illness, death seems like the
better option. However, the family of that person still may find themselves wanting that person
to live. Also, people usually want to keep living or want someone else to keep living for selfish
reasons. They want or feel like they need something more out of their own life or something
from the person dying. In fact, in Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night,”
one can recognize these selfish reasons for prolonging life. To satisfy his own selfish reason,
Thomas uses four types of men, who all want to keep living for selfish reasons, in order to
motivate his father to fight against death.
The wise men and good men, that Thomas uses to get his dad to fight against death, both
want to live for the same self-serving reason. Thomas writes that the wise men “at their end
know dark is right/ Because their words have forked no lightning they/ Do not go gentle into that
good night” (lines 4-6). The wise men represent well-educated men, such as scholars,
philosophers, and politicians. They do not want to die, even though they know that death occurs naturally, because no one will remember them. These wise men want fame and glory for their
great ideas, therefore, they fight to stay alive long enough for that to happen. The good men have
the same reason to keep living as the wise men do. Thomas writes, “Good men, the last wave by,
[cry] how bright/ their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay” (7-8). These men lived their
lives helping people and doing good things. However, in the end, they blame the people they
helped for not remembering their actions. The good men think that they should have helped some
other group of people who would have remembered their deeds as amazing, as opposed to frail.
Due to the insignificance of their good deeds, they too fight to live another day. Both the wise
men and the good men want to live for the same self-serving reason; fame. A lot of people can
relate to the wise men and the good men because most people want others to remember them
when they die. Thomas shows his dad these two types of men because whether his dad would
consider himself a wise man, a good man, or both, he should keep living.
Then, Thomas uses the examples of wild men and grave men, which have similar self
centered reasons to continue living, to convince his father that he should keep living. Thomas
says that the wild men “caught and sang the sun in flight/ And learn, too late, they [grieve] it on
its way” (10-11). The wild men lived their lives carefree and full of adventure. They did
whatever they wanted, but finally realize that they will soon die. They realize that when they do
pass away, they will have no one with them. These wild men regret not making lasting
relationships throughout their lives, so they fight to live long enough to make those relationships.
Lastly, Thomas describes the grave men, who have a similar reason for living longer. “Grave
men, near death, who see with blinding sight/ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay/
Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (13-15). The grave men still want to live, even with
their failing bodies. With their blind eyes, they can still look back on their life and see all of the
good and bad times that they had. They also see all of their regrets and mistakes. The grave men
fight to live to make up for those past mistakes. Both the wild men and the grave men want to
live to make up for something in their past. Everyone has made mistakes and has regrets in life,
which means that everyone can relate themselves to the wild and grave men to some degree.
Thomas’ father most likely has some regrets and has made some mistakes in his life, therefore,
according to Thomas, he should try to live long enough to make up for them.
In addition to the reasons that the men that Thomas describes have to keep living,
Thomas himself has a selfish reason for wanting his father to keep fighting against death. At
first, the author does not seem to have selfish intentions for writing his dad this poem. He starts
off by writing, “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Old age should burn and rave at close of
day/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (1-3). These three lines do not sound innately
selfish. Nevertheless, at the end of his poem Thomas writes, “And you, my father, there on the
sad height/ Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray” (16-17). The author clearly just
wants attention from his dad and he does not care how he gets it. Desperate for his father’s
attention, Thomas does not care if his dad curses or blesses him, he only wants him to do
something. He wants his father to fight against death anyway he can, not lay down and give up.
Obviously, Thomas does not have a good relationship with his father, which has led to Thomas
seeking his father’s attention on his death bed. Many people have at least one family member
that they do not get along with very well. Those people would probably react the same way
Thomas did if their family member faced the possibility of death, despite their strained
To convince his dad to fight against death, Thomas uses the examples of wise, good,
wild, and grave men, who all have self-serving reasons to keep living. Thomas also has a selfish reason for wanting his dad to fight to live. The wise and good men desire fame and glory,
therefore, they want to keep living. Both the wild men and grave men have regrets and mistakes
that they feel they need to correct before they can die. Thomas desperately wants the attention of
his father before his father passes away. While each of the men and Thomas have selfish reasons
for prolonging their own life or the life of another, they do not necessarily have bad reasons.
Most people would find these reasons valid for fighting against death. This goes to show how
different people view and react to death. In the end though, everyone can agree that everyone
will have to face death no matter what.
- Thomas, Dylan. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Literature: A Portable Anthology, edited by Janet E. Gardner et al., 4th edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 540-541.
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