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Robbie Sorrentino

Mrs. Honaker
AP English 12

Ben Jonson and Dylan Thomas focus in on the causes and effects of the unforgiving

transition from life to death as they witnessed first-hand the death of a loved one. For Jonson, a

dream of the death of his eldest son at the hands of a plague and further realization that his dream

became reality prompted him to delve into his poetic side. On the other hand, Thomass anger

due to his fathers suffering from a disease motivates him to write. The authors fall under the

shadow of profound sadness lamenting at deaths inevitability, yet Jonson emerges to attempt to

find a possible celebration in the circumstance. In On My First Son Ben Jonson uses extended

metaphors, personification, and structure to develop an explanation and justification for the

acceptance of death, while Dylan Thomas uses metaphorical imagery, and paradox, and

parallelism in Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night to convey the war that must be waged

at the end of life with all ones might and effort to resist death.

In their respective poems, Jonson and Thomas construct a deeper, figurative meaning to

their dire situations through the use of metaphors. In On My First Son, the speaker compares

his situation with the loss of his son to that of a bank and a client. He states his son was lent to

him and now he must be returned to God (Ln 3). The speaker must pay back the loaner so his

son may be exacted by thy fate (Ln 3-4). By giving reason to the loss of his son, the author is

able to perhaps cope with the grief he has been experiencing. Logically one must return on a loan

to be morally pure, and thus Jonson has found his justification for his son. While Jonson chooses

not to refuse death, Thomas opts for a different approach. In Do Not Go Gentle into That Good

Night, Dylan Thomas uses day and night to represent life and the void of death. The sun stands
for all that is beautiful in the world, and as it sets, the light dims and one is reminded of death

waiting around the corner. Humans must rage, rage and fight for the goodness of life in the

face of all hopelessness at the close of day or dying of the light (Ln 2-3). The symbolism of

this metaphor presents the viewer with the setting of the sun, a daily occurrence as opposed to

the less commonly understood, complex notions associated with the destruction of life at time of

death. This display of death as an idea more tangible to ones senses allows the reader to more

clearly see the time to rebel against fate.

Both Jonson and Thomas make further use of poetic devices to highlight the themes

expressed in their works. In On My First Son, Ben Jonson makes use of personification in

fleshs rage giving human emotion to inanimate parts of the body (Ln 7). Flesh is known to be

only a worldly object present in life and not in death. It is prone to pain and can even be the

cause of sadness as it is vulnerable. Jonsons son is free of this weakness as well as the misery

of old age, a hardship not of the eternal realm (Ln 8). Again, the author finds a pragmatic

viewpoint from which to look upon the death of his son. Because he is free of the cruel clutches

of Earth, it is justifiable that he died at such a young age. In a similar sense, Dylan Thomas

realizes that death is good for his father who is ill and blind when he states in Line 4, wise men

at their end know dark is right, yet he states his father can still see in Line 13 and should not

go gentle into death in Line 18. Thomas wants his father to stay because he cannot fathom

living without him. The paradox emphasizes the authors view that one should fight nearing

death possibly for the sake of their family. The use of alliteration further focuses the audiences

attention on the paradox through the use of blinding, blind, blaze, and be (Ln 13-14).

In Jonsons On My First Son and Thomass Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,

structure plays a significant role in portraying theme. Most people view death with a negative
connotation as they begin Jonsons piece. Then the use of a question in Line 6 that man should

envy the state of death, flips this connotation on its side with readers on the edge of their seat.

This leads the reader to believe death may not be as terrible as preconceived. The author inserts a

quote stating Here

doth lie Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry asking his son to disperse the message (Ln 9-10).

Jonson again finds a benefit in his sons passing claiming that it brought his best work. He finds

a reason to accept the death of a loved one. Similarly in Do Not Go Gentle into That Good

Night, the author makes soft-spoken statements utilizing sibilance in the words curse, bless,

and fierce when concluding his poem asking for prayer (Ln 17). Even though most things are

subject to the devastation of time, the power of words is not, as it lives on when the speaker has

gone. In both poems, the words of the speaker is accentuated as conquering death with an

advantage. There are also parallels within the structure of Dylan Thomass poem on its own.

Each of the middle stanzas begins with an adjective followed by men in question, wise men in

Line 4, good men in Line 7, wild men in Line 10, and grave men in Line 13. Then each

ends with the men refusing to die without a struggle just as Thomass father should battle his

disease and imminent death. Thomas refers to this moment of death as a good night, as one

closes their eyes and releases control of the reigns. He alternates between repeating the phrase

rage, rage against the dying and the title of his poem do not go gently into that at the

end of each stanza (Ln 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 19). The repetition of such phrases reinforces and

emphasizes the importance of giving life all it is worth despite old age or misfortune.

Both Ben Jonson and Dylan Thomas found their own way of dealing with the actuality of

death in their poems. In On My First Son, Jonson uses rhyme and reason to accept that death
may be a better place. On the other hand in Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night, Thomas

stares death in the face with a drive to fight for life, for survival.