Men’s Attitude Towards Death in do not Go Gentle into that Good Night

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 Death: the only certainty we have in life. Human beings start aging at the very moment they come into the world and yet, few of us accept our mortality as part of a natural process. Instead, we allow the finite aspect of our time here to dictate how we experience life and, at the end, we want to prolong our stay at all cost, resisting the inevitable. In his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Dylan Thomas writes about eminent death, while pleading with his father to fight for his life. The author uses different kinds of men to show how everyone’s battle against death is for their own selfish reasons.

Thomas starts the poem suggesting we should fight dying at our old age. On the second stanza, he introduces the “wise men” and their search for fame (line 4). These men are selfish, since they resist death in order to continue their quest for recognition of their work and subsequent glory. Although they understand death is inherent to life, as they approach the end of their journeys, these professionals realize “their words had forked no lightning” (5). These well-educated individuals, who are eloquent in their speeches, come to the conclusion their words did not impact society to the extent they had intended. The prospect of leaving no legacy behind drives them to seek extra time. In Greek mythology, Trojan War hero Aquiles jeopardizes his well being time and again to built a reputation that would outlast his mortality. Today, politicians, scientists, and even professional celebrities continue to follow fame as a way to overcome death.

On the third stanza of the poem, the poet mentions “good men” (7) and the way they seek people worthy of their deeds. He refers to the egoism of those who practice charity as an ego booster sport capable of highlighting their legacies. These “good men, the last wave by, crying how bright / Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay” (7-8), blame the recipients of their good deeds for the small waves their charitable work created. If only they could have a little longer, they might have the chance to find those worthy of their efforts and go down in history as some of the greatest philanthropists of all time. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” was written in the 1950s, when successful businessmen were in the process of establishing foundations, mostly to avoid taxes. Despite the self-serving financial reasons behind their motivation, these men played the Good Samaritan role in ego-enhancing performances. Nowadays, in a world where Instagram stories dictate reality, images of quasi-saints feeding the hungry are not rare. “Good men” (7) and women are feeding the homeless and their egos at the same time.

The author also mentions “Wild men” (10) and their own selfish reasons not to surrender “into that good night” (1): a potential chance to build love bonds with family and friends. These men are the ones who go through life without a sense of purpose, only to find out, “too late, they grieved it on its way” (11). They are thrill seekers, constantly searching for pleasure, renouncing any sort of responsibility. As a result, these individuals lack emotional attachments. Alone on their death beds, they come to the realization partying through life does not mean much without someone with whom to share, at the end, memories of the good times. Lonely and fearing death’s proximity, “Wild men” (10), wish they had a second chance so they could cherish their relationships with loved ones. In the last decade, social media users have witnessed the rise of a new sport modality. Rooftoping allures to the climbing of tall urban structures in the absence of any safety equipment. Adrenaline “junkies” brake laws and risk their lives to post a video, which will generate millions of likes. One can only imagine the feelings of regret these real-life Spidermen experience when they notice they are out of balance.

The last type of dying men the poet identifies are “Grave men” (13), the ones who, on the cross line between life and death, have seen the other side and hope for the opportunity to spread the good news. According to Thomas, these men “see with blinding sight” (13). The author’s choice of words suggests life’s greatest mystery is clarified immediately prior to death, when a dying person’s life story flashes before their eyes leading them to some sort of enlightenment. At such moment, they comprehend the true meaning of existence, not only what lies after death, but also the purpose of life. There are several books pertaining to individuals’ near death experiences. They are usually similar accounts. These patients seem to acquire a renewed intent for their lives and seldom resist the urge to transmit their messages to the masses: Heaven exists after all.

The last stanza of Thomas’ poem is a desperate plea to his father. In 1952, when the poet writes “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” his dad is severely ill and Thomas hopes for any type of acknowledgement from his strained father. He writes, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray” (17), a line demonstrative of his desperate desire for closure. The writer’s father never approved of his lifestyle and this is an attempt to gain acceptance, showing a son’s longing for a token of his father’s unconditional love. If his father choses to “rage against the dying of the light” (19), they gain time; a new chance to mend the broken fences in their relationship. All too often, people cling to their loved ones, trying to prevent the death of a person who has no quality of life. For we don not want to feel the emotional pain of the loss, we prolong our loved ones physical pain, in an ultimate display of selfishness. Ironically, the poet perishes before his father, just a few months after writing this poem.

In “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Dylan Thomas exposes the different, yet always-egotistic reasons why we tend to resist death. Nearing eternal rest, we regret not having an overtime to set the score right. Whether in pursuit of fame, legacy, love, or closure, our reasoning to postpone death is consistently self-serving and self-centered. Thomas himself, in a perfect example of narcissistic behavior, claims with his father for him to fight against the end of his life so they earn a chance to fix their relationship. The author’s death, prior to that of his dad’s, serves as the perfect reminder we have no control over when our death will come. We do not need a cancer or a car accident. In order to die, one only needs to be alive. On the contrary, we do have options for how we live. We should focus our energy not on the unsustainable pursuit of happiness, but rather on living a joyful existence through every step of our journey.    

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Men’s Attitude Towards Death in Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved July 24, 2024 , from
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