“Do not go gentle into that goodnight”

I am a fairly well read individual. Having taken a good amount of upper level English courses at Siena College as well as a stint in graduate school in chemistry at RPI, I would say I have a diverse range of things that I enjoy reading. Snooping through the scientific journals is part of my job. I read all kinds of stuff for leisure, and, sad to say, I just don’t read lots of poetry. Plenty of novels, plenty of short stories, no poems.

There’s one poem that I actually know almost by heart based on the number of times I’ve watched a movie in which it is recited.

“Do not go gentle into that goodnight” by Dylan Thomas¬†[ if you visit this link, you can read the poem and hear it recited]

The film in which it appears is Back to School¬†starring Rodney Dangerfield. This film is one of my favorite films of all time. Rodney’s character, Thornton Melon is asked to recite the poem as part of his comprehensive oral examination, administered because he was accused of academic dishonesty.

Noticing that Melon is being bullied by the rest of the staff, his contemporary literature professor reminds him of this poem, has him dictate the poem, and asks him one simple question about the poem: “what does that poem mean to you?”

His response is a reduction of an interpretation of the poem to something witty and fun, fitting for the character and for me.

Watch the sequence here

Just like Thornton Melon, I don’t take shit from no one.


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4 thoughts on ““Do not go gentle into that goodnight”

  • Valerae

    That contemporary lit professor is none other than the lovely Sally Kellerman. She is fabulous in everything she’s in (including the Star Trek Original Series Episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before…and, of course M*A*S*H – the movie…I also think she’s the voice of Hidden Valley Ranch!).

    That is such a great scene and such a fun movie (I particularly love Kurt Vonnegut in the film). I love literature and love reading all sorts of stuff, but do not care much for most poetry. But I loved Melon’s breakdown of the poem, it was spot-on and always gave me a nice appreciation for that piece in particular.


    • derryX

      All correct (including the Hidden Valley Ranch). Sally Kellerman is great. She was recently interviewed by Julie Klausner on the “How was your week?” podcast. Excellent stuff.

      I am still holding out for an audiobook version of Ulysses read by her.


  • Brian G

    I didn’t know you wanted to join the discussion, Mr. Helper!!!!



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