“ How has Dylan Thomas used language and poetic devices to drive home his message about death?”
Dylan Thomas used rhythms, rhymes, refrains and other poetic devices to show that he insisted that his father resisted death.
The poem had a dark and sombre tone throughout, as the poet was talking about death in his poem. His diction, such as “night, close of day, dying, tears” are words which are usually associated with death, or the end of something. Furthermore, the words are used extensively and repeatedly throughout the whole poem. Thomas’s refrains “Do not go gentle into that good night /Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” also helped in creating the sombre mood of the poem.
On the other hand, the second refrain is constructed of heavily accented words “Rage, dying” giving it a heavy feeling, further emphasizing on the deep, dark mood of the poem. By using the two refrains, we can get the feeling of how the poet’s feelings were changing as his father laid on his deathbed. His feelings changed from that of sorrow to that of rage, repeatedly.
The first refrain has a kind of soothing feeling to it. This is because the sentence is constructed mainly of lightly accented words “gentle, into, night” and with only one word with a heavier accent “good”, hence giving it a light, soothing rhythm, as if he was trying to persuade someone to do something.
This gives the reader an impression of the confused feelings that the poet was undergoing internally. However, in the last stanza, both of the refrains were used together to provide an ending. This gives an impression that the poet was not undergoing the change in emotions anymore as his father may have died. By putting the lighter-toned line above the heavier-toned line, the poet successfully created a dark and heavy finale to end his poem (and to symbolize the death of his father)
The poet also showed that death is inevitable. This can be seen from the different ways the “wise men, good men and grave men” react when they are about to die. The poet showed that wise men “at the end know dark is right / because their words had forked no lightning”. The poet shows how reluctant the wise men were to die although they already knew that death was inevitable. The good men, on the other hand, were also unwilling to die, as they want to see how their deeds have benefitted mankind (“their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay”. The adjectives used to describe the men (wise, wild, grave) are like epithets to allude to the different attitudes of men when they face death.
Although these people have led their lives in different ways, but in the end, they still cannot escape death. However, the poet sings about their courage as they try to resist death (although they know that it is impossible)
In the last stanza, the poet’s tone changes to something more intimate as he talked about his father. This is because he also knows that his father is about to die and he is unable to do anything about it. His father, just like the wise, good, wild and grave men, is unable to triumph over death. Here, the poet uses consonance (s sound) in his like when he speaks to his father “curse, bless, me now with you fierce tears”. The ‘s’ sound is the sound when a fire is being extinguished by water (dying of the light), which further shows that humans cannot win against death.
In the end, I feel that other than being afraid of being left alone, I feel that the poet fears death himself.