In Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”, the speaker is a son talking to his aging, possibly dying father as he pleads with his father to fight against death. The son admits that death is the inevitable end but many do fight against it; which is what he wishes his father to do. The speaker believes that no one should give up that easily to death. By using a change in point of view, repetition and paradoxes, Thomas reinforces the son’s message that aging men often see their lives with a sudden clarity and realize how they might have lived happier, more productive lives. These men rail against fate, fighting for more time, exactly as he hopes his father will do. In the beginning of the poem, particularly the first 5 stanzas, it is unclear who the narrator is speaking to. At first the narrator can be seen to be using an omniscient third person point of view as they talk about the wise, good, wild, and grave men. This person seems to know about everything; specifically how people feel when they are close to death.
The readers are blindsided with the first-person switch in the last stanza, where they are then forced to shift in opinion of the speaker and his perspective. Now, nearly the end of the poem, the reader understands that the speaker was using first person all along. He was addressing his own father. This all knowing narrator becomes a man pleading to his father to be like the other men mentioned. Somehow, this change of impression of the narrator makes you sympathize with him more.
The narrator has been seen as a man who understands that death is inevitable in each kind of man but every one of them wish to live longer. Then you realize it is not the wise, good, wild, and grave men he cares about, but his own father. The very reason the narrator mentions the wise, good, wild, and grave men is so that he may convince his father to fight against death. Specifically, he repeats the same lines, “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” which is what he presents the men to be doing. Through these repetitive lines, the stress and urgency of the speaker’s tone is clearly demonstrated.
Even though each of these men are very different, they all seek the same thing in the end. They seek to live, to not go gently into death, so they then rage and fight for it. The quartain also repeats the same lines as if the narrator is telling the father, ‘it doesn’t matter what type of man you are, please simply fight as they do to live’. One of the first paradoxes that are used is in the words ‘good night’ where Thomas calls the uncertainty and inevitability of death, represented by nightfall, as good. However, readers learn the speaker is asking his father to fight against death, but as he first describes death as “good”.
It is definitely contradictory. In this last stanza, he asks his father to “curse, bless, me now”. Curse and bless are part of a paradox Thomas uses. At first it is confusing as the reader could think, “Why would he want to be cursed by his father? He can’t curse and bless him at the same time” or something similar.
What this actually reflects is the narrator’s desire for the father to have any kind of fight left in him. In effect, “if you were to curse me, you would be blessing me.” The father cursing his son would show that he still has the rage, the will to fight. The earnest “I pray” after this line suggests the strength of his desire for his father to remain alive a little longer.
As how this relates to the first paradox is that it seems that even though the speaker understands that death is inevitable and seen as good because it is a part of life, he still would rather have his father with him. He wishes to at least have his father to fight against death, so he can be with him for a little while longer. Reading the paradox by itself may not make sense but once connected to the rest of the poem’s meanings, it makes more sense. Through the use of a change in point of view, repetition and paradoxes, the son’s message becomes clear. As an intellect, the speaker understands that death is a matter of fact. Eventually, we will all die.
However, he also understands the importance of fighting for more time. He mentions many men who realize at the end of their lives’ that they have a lot to fight for. They weren’t finished with what they started. Though the words, “rage, rage against the dying of the light” he shows how serious they were about fighting against dying. These men were enraged by the thought of dying, similar to how the son wants his father to be if he were to be cursed by his own father.
Overall, the son is asking his father to ‘not go gentle into that good night’, but his choice of words and structure make it much more meaningful and desperate.