The villanelle's persona speaks in this poem as the son of a dying father. Line sixteen states "And you, my father, " and this proves the speaker's persona. The old man, at his deathbed, receives encouragement with pleads from his son to hold on to life. In the last stanza, the son as well as the father accepts death as merely a part of living.
Furthermore, the repetitious last lines serve to strengthen the speaker's thoughts. In the first, third, and fifth stanzas, the last lines match each other; in the second and fourth stanzas, the final lines match. The final stanza combines the last lines from the odd and even-numbered stanzas for an additional line. This portrays the ongoing war between life and death. The old man went back and forth between life and death as the stanzas' last lines switched back and forth. In the end, the two last lines join together as the old man and his son accept that death is a part of life.
Next, the references to "good men," "wild men," and "grave men" display the three basic stages of life: birth, life, and death. In stanza three, the stanza pertaining to "good men," the portion "the last wave by" depicts the old man's generation as fewer and fewer still live. The color symbolism of the "green bay" lets us know that the speaker refers to the young and new generation of yesterday. Stanza four's reference to "wild men" concerns the living part of life. It reveals the fact that men often learn too late to change their actions. The fifth stanza depicts the dying part of life in which the senses deteriorate. How the speaker depicts that "Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay" refers to the bright light many often reported seeing in near-death experiences. The blind may once again see this sign that death knocks on one's door.
In the line "Do not go gentle into that good night," the speaker refers to the night as good. Night replaces death in a metaphoric manner. The reference to that "good night" displays how good death may appear and how easily one attains it. This shows the reason the speaker persists for his father to hold on to life and not "go gentle into that good night." Likewise, to "rage against the dying of the light" as the speaker pleads shows a similar appeal by the son. The dying of the light refers to life as a light that shines to prove existence. If the light dies, then the life has ceased to exist.
This poem, in villanelle form, artfully implies the universal theme of death's inevitability. The son's pleads to his father and the father's pleads with death show conflicts that may arise in one at his deathbed. This man, the grave man, finishes the remainder of his life. From the stages of his life, he finally reaches this one. The poem ends ambiguously hinting the acceptance of death by the father and the son.