Analysis of Tract by William Carlos Williams

Analysis of Tract by William Carlos Williams

The poem “Tract” by William Carlos Williams, on the surface, is a criticism of an ostentatious funeral (Geddes 37). However, the poem does have a strong hidden message. “Tract” could very well be a direct criticism of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”(Geddes 123) and any other poem like it. In his poem, William Carlos Williams criticizes poets like Thomas for using too many stylistic formalities, thereby obscuring their poetry’s true literal content. He also scolds them for placing themselves into the poetry when, in his view, there really is no place for them there. Finally, he ends with an offering of recourse for all the poets like Thomas.

On the surface, the narrator in “Tract” is criticizing an overly ornate funeral. His purpose is to establish a new idiom in which cultural inhibitions are discarded. This purpose can also be applied to the poems’ hidden meaning; a criticism of Dylan Thomas’ work. When the narrator refers to his “townspeople,” what Williams might be implying is “my fellow poets.” He is addressing a small community; the poets of the world, and in this case, Dylan Thomas.

In Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” there is a very distinctive structure of repeated lines and rhythms called a villanelle (Shaeffer). William Carlos Williams’ poem strives to do away with such convention. His “design for a hearse” is really a design for a poem, which should be “not black- nor white and not polished…[but] weathered like a farm wagon- with gilt wheels.” With this, Williams might be saying that there should be no specific design; we should not have villanelles. This corresponds with his philosophy to reject poetic forma...

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According to William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas injects pretence into his poetry to obscure its meaning and disguise it as something that it is not. He also inserts his identity into his poetry. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is therefore, in the eyes of William Carlos Williams, a great example of how not to write a poem.

Work Cited

Geddes, Gary. 20th Century Poetry & Poetics: Fourth Edition

Oxford University Press. Toronto, 1996

Dylan Thomas. Carmen Smith. 11/15/2000.


William C. Williams. 11/15/2000

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Rage, Rage. Frank Beck. 11/15/2000

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Do Not Go…. Peter Shaeffer. 11/15/2000

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