Poem Encounter: Do not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Claire Doyle
| 17 Questions
Note from the author:
*CONTEST* This is a Formative aimed at a 10th grade ELA class full of reluctant readers. I am thinking of using it as part of our review for the final exam.
How would you feel if you or someone you loved were facing death?
What advice would you give someone who is dying?
Is death ever good?

This Formative will walk you through one poet's response.

Your goals:
1) Read and savor a memorable--and very famous--poem.
2) Practice noticing and interpreting symbols and metaphors.
3) Practice noticing and articulating themes.
4) Create a response to the poem that connects to your own experience.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this poem appears on your final exam.
Here are the concepts you'll need to remember.
The outlined content above was added from outside of Formative.
Read this: this background information will make it easier to understand the poem.

The text you are about to read is called a villanelle: a nineteen line poem in which the first and third lines of the opening stanza repeat in a regular pattern. For example, if the first stanza of the villanelle is

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; (1)
so many things seem filled with the intent (2)
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. (3)

Then the second and third stanza will be:

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master. (1)

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster. (3)

See how the lines repeat?

Because the villanelle form circles back on itself, it is often used for love poems, poems about anger, and poems about grief.


Think about what it is like to develop a bad crush on someone. It can be hard to think straight because that person keeps showing up in your thoughts, right? It's the same when you are angry or heartbroken, thinking the same painful thoughts over and over again. The villanelle's repeating lines imitate preoccupation or obsession. The poem keeps saying the same things in different ways, just like someone who is deeply in love, angry, or grieving.

The title of today's poem is Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Here are the first three lines:

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

1 pt
Based on these opening lines,
I think this is a love poem.
I think this is a poem about grief.
I think this poem about anger.
I think this is a poem about grief and anger.
I am not sure. Please help.
2 pts
Explain your answer. Why did you choose the option you did? Please write a complete sentence and use at least one piece of evidence from the first three lines of the poem.
As the title suggests, night is an important concept in this poem. Since we are reading poetry, and since good poems almost always work on multiple levels, it is a good idea to think about possible meanings and associations that night might have.
5 pts
Do some imaginative brainstorming about the word night. What thoughts and feelings does it create for you? What big ideas might night be a symbol for in poetry? There is no one right answer here. You may type, draw, and paste in images from google.
One last bit of helpful information: Dylan Thomas wrote this poem for his dying father, who went blind in his eighties.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, 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,
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.

Check this out: Interstellar, a 2014 film about astronauts searching for a new home as Earth slowly dies, used Do Not Go Gentle as part of its soundtrack. Here's the cast reading the poem:

There are no right answers in this section; it's a chance for you to sit with the poem before we analyze it.
1 pt
Now that you have read the poem, underline specific lines, images, or phrases that stands out to you.
3 pts
What do you like about your line, image, or phrase? What made you choose it? Please write at least one complete sentence.
5 pts
What do you think of this poem? Explain. Think about how it makes you feel or what images, thoughts, or questions it brings up for you. You may type and draw.

You will not get credit for throw-away answers without effort or explanation, like "It's boring" or "It's fine." If you say, "I don't understand," please ask a specific qestion afterwards.
1 pt
Did you find listening to the poem helpful? Why or why not?
3 pts
Read through the poem again. To practice your close reading skills, mark an example of personification.
3 pts
Mark the metaphors and symbols that you see. Hint: "Night" is used as a symbol in this poem. It is also a metaphor.
2 pts
What might night be a symbol or metaphor for? Explain your thinking in a complete sentence.
8 pts
Decide what meaning each of the following symbols/images/metaphors might have.
  • that good night
  • the dying of the light
  • close of day
  • rage, rage
  • going gentle
  • the sad height
  • frail deeds
  • catching and singing the sun in flight
  • Death (4)
  • Persistence (1)
  • Glory or fame (2)
  • Giving up (1)
2 pts
How would you describe the tone of this poem?
indifferent, cold
passionate, vehement, eager
angry but resigned
5 pts
Write one complete sentence that states a possible theme of this poem.
2 pts
What do you think it means that the poem refers to death as "that good night"? In what situations might death be "good?"
Choose one of the following questions to answer.

10 pts
What advice would you give to someone who is facing death? Explain in a paragraph or an original poem.

Reminder: a paragraph is at least eight complete sentences. For this assignment, your poem should be at least 8 lines long. Good poetry does not always need to rhyme.

10 pts
Do you consider this a depressing or a hopeful poem? Explain your answer in a paragraph, citing at least two pieces of evidence from the poem to support your position.

Reminder: a paragraph is at least eight complete sentences.

10 pts
Make your own drawing or collage interpreting Dylan Thomas' advice about facing death.
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