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A Literary Analysis Of “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” And “The Things They Carried”

2138 words - 9 pages

A Literary Analysis of “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and “The Things They Carried”


Sharon Linne

January 26th, 2015

Sources of conflict provide a unifying factor that enables an audience to relate to a literary work’s respective authors on a psychological level. This is particularly important when an author seeks to place his or her audience in their own perspective. A strong case for the conflict of individual versus self can be identified in the texts “They Things They Carried” (O’Brien, 1990) and “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” (Thomas, 1952) This shared trait offers insight towards the human element and increases both works’ depth as a result. It ...view middle of the document...

(O’Brien, 1990, p.26) We can determine a similar case of impending doom present in “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” as the poem’s entirety revolves around a father on his deathbed. The second through to fifth tercet establish the different types of men who are on death’s doorstep and have decided to not relinquish themselves choosing instead to continue fighting on. O’Brien depicts the conflict of individual versus self as a parallel between obsessing over fantasies and living in the present. He demonstrates the importance of the latter when the main protagonist blames himself for the death of a fellow soldier. This is a concrete representation of how the struggles of individual versus self can in fact be detrimental to one’s well being especially in the case of Lieutenant Cross. The conflict cited in Thomas’s poem on the other hand is presented as something glorious, in fact it can be stated as a positive quality attributed to man. The poem presents men who in the face of adversity decided to fight on instead of kneeling to their fate, thus following the poem’s namesake.

There are a number of literary techniques present within O’Brien’s short story and Thomas’s poem. “The Things They Carried” superimposes conflict upon conflict; Lieutenant Cross is struggling with his feelings for Martha, a girl whom he knows does not love him, whilst trying to lead a platoon of men on the battlefield. The plot climaxes in a fellow soldier’s demise. The protagonist has an epiphany as a result “Lieutenant Cross reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved but to lead.” (O’Brien, 1990, p.27) The story is also laden with flashbacks that highlight the importance of tokens that remind Lieutenant Cross of Martha such as the small pebble, handwritten letters, and the two photos. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is written with the notion that fate will affect us all, yet we need not succumb to it willingly. This is demonstrated repeatedly with examples of men at the face of their demise still fighting on. A great deal of irony is present with the selection of words used. An example of this is the juxtaposition of words such as curse and bless. (stanza 6, line 17) The words’ meaning is only magnified by the fact that they present opposing ideals and are placed next to each other. Thomas presents the main character’s persona in this poem as someone that might be of old age and close to the end as well, hence all the references to others in the same situation. Only in the last stanza do we discover the truth, that the person about to face their end is the main character’s father.

The literary techniques of conflict, epiphany and flashbacks contribute heavily to establishing the plot in They Things They Carried. Their greatest asset is they truly allow the audience to understand the conflict and reasons behind it within Lieutenant Cross’s mind. The conflict present within this short story presents the struggle that one may find when...

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