Unlike two other poems written at the same time, "Both Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed" and "Elegy", which promote peace and calm as a means to ease suffering, "Do Not Go Gentle" calls for a raging refusal to accept death easily (BBC). Thomas' father, David Thomas, or "D.J." as he was better known, was a writer and schoolteacher. He was known most for being a very militant and robust man, but as he aged, however, he became very sickly. This was no doubt hard for his son to understand and deal with, especially since they had such a close relationship (Tremlett 30). In his poem, Dylan desperately encourages his father to "not go gentle into the good night" meaning do not accept death so easily (Thomas 128). Although D.J. frequently read the Bible, he was an atheist. Such a belief can explain the absence of any reference to Christianity or God in the poem (BBC).
Thomas wrote the poem in the form of a villanelle. A villanelle is made up of four to five triplets followed by a single quatrain. The first and third lines of the villanelle also alternate as the last verse of the triplets. They were originally used for light, pastoral verses in France, making it ironic that Thomas chose to use it to address the very serious theme of death. It is also interesting to note how the strict form of the poem contradicts the ardent message it contains. One of the main reasons Thomas may have chosen to use this specific style is the repetition of the two lines "Do not go gentle... [continues]
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