Friday, May 10, 2013

Rage On: A Look at the Universal Truth Achieved by Dylan Thomas

“Creative Prose Style categorized as 19th century villanelle poetry achieved universal truth and timeless connection with society by the late poet Dylan Thomas.”

To begin, it is important to understand the story of Poet Dylan Thomas. In the creative process, one’s subjective experiences in life come through in the writing. This is most definitely the case when looking at Thomas’s infamous poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” where his voice is strong and believed to be directed at his dying father.

According to Wikipedia sources, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) was a Welsh poet who gained popularity for his “rebellious” form of poetry with focus on sound over everything. He started his career with contradicting content and conflicting images with intention of some confusion. The 1930’s fostered most of his writing. As he grew as a writer, more concrete poetry became his favored style. He also favored heavy drinking, as his late wife wrote of in her autobiography after his death. From her Wikipedia page, it is quoted from her autobiography that their relationship "was a drink story, not a love story, just like millions of others. Our one and only true love was drinking.” She also had first hand experience with Dylan Thomas’s father, DJ Thomas. Dylan’s wife described DJ as “the most unhappy man I have ever met and it showed in his face. He was unhappy with his life. It was exactly the kind of life that he had hoped not to have, and by the end he could feel himself sinking back into the very existence he had sought to escape' ( I found this quote to be very important in analyzing Thomas’s poetry, specifically the famous poem recited in every English and Literature high school classroom across the country. The relationship behind the scenes is the backbone to the villanelle, written with a strong undertone of a yearning for more from Dylan’s father as well as the presence of frustration towards a lack of desire that the reader now knows was present in more than just the end of Dylan’s father’s life, but perhaps in the dying father’s life as a whole.

By assessing the creative style used to create such a prominent piece of poetry in past and current society, we can better understand 1) why we still revisit this poem and 2) how success is attained in the creative style of prose composition:

Assessment of "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas
(footnotes linked to each highlighted mark)

Do not [i1] go gentle into that good night[i2] ,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;[i3]
Rage, rage against the dying of the light[i4] .

Though wise men at their end know dark is right[i5] ,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men[i6] , the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay[i7] ,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
[i8] Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Thomas’s poem is interpreted differently by various scholars, but it is agreed upon that his father was dying, and he expressed the process of loss through poetry. Thomas was greatly influenced by the Bible, and this too, comes through in his writing. In terms of creativity, this poem seems to satisfy the masses because it addresses the inevitable yet feared experience of death. We all, at one point, will lose and be lost. We are often given directions like, do not go gentle into that good night. Naturally, you then ask, well if I should not go gentle then what should I do? We rarely get answers to questions about life and death. Thomas delivers an answer, and it is to rage. This has become a motto for generations. For example, my generation has currently invested in the creative slogan: YOLO, representing that You Only Live Once. It applies Thomas’s demand for us to rage. This is a universal truth that we invest in and believe in, which is why this poem will continue to resonate with generations to come.

Personally, I lost my uncle to cancer last year. When I read this poem, I think of his battle. He fought hard, and in a contradiction to Thomas, I am glad that my uncle eventually went gentle into that good night. His rage against his own body was violent and painful. In a literal sense, the gentleness of his passing was the result of his two year rage against the selfish disease. Within this context, the poem takes on a different meaning. This is an interesting point to make regarding interpretation. Others have found ways to express their interpretations as seen below:

In regards Thomas’s role within an activity system, the famous poem is still resonating with people, everywhere, in every medium, today. As we grow in life and face struggles that foster perseverance and inner-strength, art is created to express this process. As seen in the pictures to the left, the human race has and will continue to contemplate life, death, and the relationships that matter most to us on this planet. Different ways of expressing this human process gives Thomas’s poem an active role in the journey a lot of people go through to gain perspective on the mysterious human life cycle. The creative style plays into this concept, as a simple and perhaps plain style of the infamous poem might look like this: “Don’t give up, keep fighting for your life.”Although this phrase has a literal meaning that is easily understood by the masses, it has no life to it. The word usage is not memorable, and frankly, it does not evoke any emotional response; however, Thomas’s phrase “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light” delivers a parallel point but in a much more original way. Readers contemplate these specific words, question the connotation of gentle and rage, and resonate with the motivation these words perpetuate. It has become a slogan, really, to continue one’s relationship with the sun, the moon, the past, the present, and the future. When a piece of literature is composed in a specific time-frame, for a specific situation, and yet, can be applicable throughout human existence, it has achieved the rhetorical value of being a universal truth. There is a reason certain pieces do not disappear over time. Thomas achieved a timeless piece of literature via the creative style.

[i1]Thomas is direct; clearly he is talking to someone. The reader is immediately taken into this dyad, wondering who should not go gentle.

[i2]Considered the title; however the poem was never titled by Thomas.

[i3]Day and Rage, great use of assonance or repeating vowel sounds.

[i4]Thomas follows the pattern of a villanelle , creating a song like structure, with two phrases that repeat.

[i5]If wise men know that dark is right, is Thomas inferring that perhaps his father has not been a wise man throughout his life but will still follow the path of wise men?

[i6]Thomas implicates 4 types of men: wise, good, wild, and grave. It sets up a comparison. And the point is that despite who you are and how you go out, you still go out. For some reason, men still must fight it. Is it pride?

[i7]Their actions in life are futile

[i8]Climax of poem, we now know this is about his father, and there is something pathetic about this dying man. Thomas looks at him with pity, anger, turmoil, and perhaps some regret.

[i9]Connection of the two repetitive phrases, there is a sense of completion.

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