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Themes

"Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" is the speaker's exploration of what it means to age closer and closer to an inevitable death, especially if the aging person becomes frail and starts to lose his or her faculties. In order to restore power and dignity, the speaker urges the dying to fight their fate and cling tenaciously onto life.

Questions About Old Age

  1. What's the relationship between age and strength in this poem? What kinds of strength do old men (and women!) have? What kinds of strength do they lack?
  2. The speaker of the poem tells us "Old age should burn and rave at close of day" (line 2). What does it mean to "burn and rave"? What kind of behavior do you think the speaker is describing with this abstract image?
  3. In four of the stanzas of this poem, the speaker uses a different adjective to describe the old "men" he is addressing: "wise men" (line 4), "Good men" (line7), "Wild men" (line10), and "Grave men" (line 13). Are these just different descriptions of the same men, or are these distinct types of men? Do they all apply to the father mentioned at the end of the poem, or not? How does the changing adjective paired with the "men" change your ideas about "old age"?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" argues that wild, reckless, and passionate behavior, even in the extremes of old age, is wiser than calm acceptance to fate.

In this poem, aging is an inevitable and tragic fate, but this tragedy can be escaped by living as intensely and passionately as possible.

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