This five-page handout on Thomas’s most famous poem is designed for students who are challenged to seek excellence in poetic analysis in their AP literature classes. For them to "just get by" is never an option.
Such students desire not merely the test-time details about “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” but also a grasp of the poetic process itself which they can apply to other poems they encounter (or write themselves).
Thomas wrote of this process: “Out of the inevitable conflict of images—the womb of war—I try to make that momentary peace which is a poem.”
In my handout students will analyze stanza-by-stanza how the imagery, themes, characters, settings, symbolism, paradox, ambiguity, allusions, the one simile, the plethora of metaphors, the poem’s villanelle genre, and even Thomas’s love of serious punning conflict before combining into the “momentary peace which is [‘Do Not Go Gentle’].”
The handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable as an in-class activity or for homework.
Since the words for the blanks are almost exclusively drawn from the text of “Do Not Go Gentle,” not the paraphrasing of it by commentators, my handout fosters close reading.
A three-page Answer Key (with commentary on the answers) is provided, beginning on a separate page.
Additionally, not as part of the student handout, I have included background notes on the major themes and stylistic features of Thomas’s poetry in general. You may wish to incorporate some of these points into your class’s discussion of “Do Not Go Gentle.”
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.