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Do Not Go Gentle

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"...The threat of the Eldrazi presented a simple choice: lay down your weapons and die for nothing, or hold them fast and die for something."

The notion of not giving in to despair, in the face of death or other hopeless situations and keeping up the fight with all one has left until death finally stakes his claim. A common phrase for this trope is to "go out with a bang", or "go out in a blaze of glory". Death need not be an absolute certainty, but may be seen as inevitable.

It comes in two forms:

  1. Death seems certain for a character, and they are going to just lie down and take it. Someone may admonish them for that, and they decide to get up and fight with all their might. May overlap with Rousing Speech. Also may manifest as a mental process, in defense of a loved one, or a rush of Heroic Spirit. Expect them to be outnumbered and out-gunned. Sometimes a hero or villain will decide to take out as many enemies as they can before their death. If a hero is doing this, it will most likely end in a Heroic Sacrifice, but it is as least certain to be a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  2. Death is absolutely certain for a character, and they need encouragement to live the last of their time to the fullest. Their death is normally caused by cancer or other serious health problems. A family member or friend will help them with accomplishing a certain goal or advancing a cause that is important to them before they die.

Either way, the character performs as their last act a deed of great significance to those around them, be it their family, friends, a community, even the entire world. The character basically wants to say that if they do die here and now, people will remember it. The character does not die quietly. For heroes, this usually involves righting or avenging some wrong but can be just a matter of personal pride to make the enemy, or the world, feel their presence one last time. Villains can have their own version, usually in the form of throwing a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum out of pure spite or sheer hubris.

Regardless, their end is worthy of great stories and legend, but this is done intentionally by the character's own will and not by happenstance. Others may push the character toward it, but the character still has the option of going gently into that good night.

See also Hope Springs Eternal. Compare The Last Dance, It Has Been an Honor, Last Stand, Heroic Spirit. Contrast Despair Event Horizon (losing all hope), I Die Free (embracing death as an alternative to slavery), Miles to Go Before I Sleep (the concept of dying has already been accepted and embraced, and the fighting is to achieve a final objective rather than raging in general) and Better to Die than Be Killed (if the only choice you have left is how you are going to die, you may as well make your death the ultimate "up yours" to your enemies).

Named after the poem by Dylan Thomas, which is believed to be written to his father.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman gives one of these speeches to his fellow Justice League of America members, The Flash and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) at a time when all hope seems lost and he himself is lying in bed with a dangerously high fever.
    "Death is powerless against you if you leave a legacy of good behind. Death is powerless against you if you do your job. My father saved the lives of over four thousand people, one at a time, with his bare hands and his mind. Death was with him the entire time."
  • While Final Crisis itself showed the Martian Manhunter getting stabbed in the back by Libra's flaming spear, the Requiem one-shot reveals that J'onn didn't go to his Comic Book Death merely from this, but went down fighting the Secret Society, even managing to get some friends to tell his life story and tell Libra to his face that he'd never win.
  • When faced with the imminent heat death of the universe, Galan of Taa refused to accept death quietly. Instead, he and a few others flew straight into the center of the Big Crunch. The others perished, but the newborn Power Cosmic merged with Galan. Thus was Galactus born. When Galactus was briefly depowered by the Fantastic Four and reverted to Galan, he was initially fatalistic about becoming Galactus again. Seeing the people of New York City struggling to survive no matter the odds reminded Galan of the man he once was. At the end of the story, he teleported himself to another dimension in an attempt to hide from the Power Cosmic a little longer. Before departing, he thanked the Four for reminding him of how important it is for people to never stop fighting against the inevitable.
  • Loki: Agent of Asgard: Facing the imminent end of all existence in The Final Incursion, the Asgardians notice an arrival of an army of the dead pouring forth from Hel, and that Old King Loki has killed Balder, meaning all hope seems lost. At which point the Allfather and Allmother arrive, bearing gifts. In the form of a magically enhanced pair of machineguns and a minigun. As the Allmother puts it:
    FOR ASGARD, WE DIE LIKE GODS!
  • The Mighty Thor: Issues #360-362: "...and though The Executioner stands alone, and the warriors of Hel seem numberless... Not one sets foot upon the bridge across the river Gjoll.
    They sing no songs in Hel, nor do they celebrate heroes, for silent is that dismal realm and cheerless. But the story of the Gjallerbru and the god who defended it is whispered across the Nine Worlds... and when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head, the answer is always the same. "He stood alone at Gjallerbru."... and that answer is enough."
  • Usagi Yojimbo: The aging samurai magistrate of a small rural village challenges Usagi, his friend, to a duel, insisting on dying by the sword rather than of the disease that is slowly killing him. Averted when Usagi convinces him to lower his sword and do as much good as he can for his people in the time he has left.
  • Welcome to Hoxford has Ray Delgado sum up the trope rather well.
    Ray: I've learned that when Death stares right at you, and smiles its big ol' toothy grin- the best thing to do is smile right back at the fucker.

    Music 
  • In Amon Amarth's song "Across the Rainbow Bridge" an old viking decides that he wants to gain entry into Valhalla so he goes on a rampage to be killed in battle.
  • The Garth Brooks song "Ireland" is about soldiers about to die in battle in the morning, and they decide to fight it right then, rather than wait to be overrun.
  • Manowar: "Tonight we strike! There is thunder in the sky! Together we'll fight, and some of us will die! But they'll always remember that we made a stand! And many will die by my hand!"
  • Fireaxe's album Food for the Gods has a few of these, most notably the ending where after the apocalypse the inhabitants of hell, rather than resigning themselves to an eternity of torment, storm the pearly gates in an angry rage and attempt to kill God.
  • Hammerfall's At the End of the Rainbow. The most common interpretation is that the warriors have already died and this is their heaven.
  • The Trope Namer poem is quoted in Brave Saint Saturn's Two-Twenty Nine, which is largely themed on the Challenger disaster.
  • It's hard to tell with the Word Salad Lyrics, but Belly song "Stay" seems like a song about a lover who is facing imminent death.
    Stay, oh oh oh oh, stay with me
    It's not time for me to go
    It's not time for me to go
    It's not time for me to go
    Stay

    Roleplay 
  • AJCO:
    • A slight inversion in with Egg, who has accepted that she will die and begs the others to not go gently in her last speech rather than the other way around.
      "I'm begging you fight.
      Fight for your right to be free from monsters like her.
      Fight the lies and the torture and the treachery.
      F-Fight to see the days that... I'm not going to be able to
      ... otherwise your entire life will be for nothing."
    • It has an immediate effect on the person responsible for her apparent death in the first place, who promptly runs out into a landscape that she believes to be highly toxic after the girl.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase: it's right there in the game's tagline.
    Extinction is approaching. Fight it.
  • Exalted: In Second Edition this (crossed with Tired of Running) is how Lunars are made. Take a Heroic Mortal, put them in a situation where they're either dancing on the edge of or have crossed the Despair Event Horizon, and then they choose to get up and keep going. At which point they Exalt, and Luna shows up and tells them to go kick ass in her name.
  • The standard character retirement option in Masks: A New Generation is "Retire from the life or become a paragon of the city", representing the character either quitting superheroics or becoming a famous superhero who is, regardless, no longer part of the team and thus unplayable. The Doomed character retirement option is "Become a paragon of the city for however long you have left" - giving up on trying to escape their Doom and just dedicating the rest of their lives to doing what good they can. (This is also the OOC decision you have to make at the same time, given that another option at the same experience level is to do a controlled detonation of your oncoming fate, picking a new playbook if you survive!)
  • The Magic: The Gathering story arc of "Rise of the Eldrazi" depicted a horribly outclassed humanity fighting against plane eating elder gods called the Eldrazi. One card in particular, "Time Of Heroes", sums up this idea in its flavor text: "...The threat of the Eldrazi presented a simple choice: lay down your weapons and die for nothing, or hold them fast and die for something."
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperium of Man is dying. Culturally and technologically stagnant, their God-Emperor is on a life support machine that is in serious need of a good fix, and beset on all sides by xenos and horrors such as ageless and soulless killers, impossibly vast planet-consuming swathes of monsters and rape-happy evil space elves, while also attacked from within by traitors and heretics. The entire human race is making a Last Stand, and while it will take millennia for the end to come due to the sheer size of the Imperium, they will fight tooth and nail for every world and failing that drag their enemies kicking and screaming down with them. For the Emperor!
    • The Craftworld Eldar were driven to the brink of extinction by a great tragedy, and now exist as scattered survivalists seeking refuge among the stars. All their gods save three are dead, slain by a Chaos God of their own creation, who is now hunting their race down with the intent to consume their souls. Not only that, but their most ancient and powerful foes are rising from their tombs. Beset by enemies on all sides just like the Imperium and crippled by a low birth-rate, they are doomed in the long run and very unlikely to succeed in these goals, and they know it. However, they hope that they can deliver a final end to their ancient foes and use their souls to create a god of death which will curbstomp said Chaos God and free them from their curse. Until that goal is realized, they will keep fighting to the bitter end.
    • Subverted by the Tau, though not out of cowardice. Their Greater Good philosophy means that every Tau at every level of command must take the course of action that is best for the Tau as a whole, and getting into unwinnable fights is not that kind of action. That said, they're just as willing to fight to the death if need be (with plasma guns and high-tech mecha), but only if no other option presents itself (in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, they evacuate the planet after their Ethereal is killed instead of dying to the last man).
  • Delta Green: Practically the mission statement of Delta Green, and it even acknowledges that the fight against the cosmic horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos is at delaying the inevitable at best. This attitude is likewise a job requirement for agents.
    Choose going out with a bang at the end of it all, PGP encrypting your last message down a securely laid cable as an NRO Delta wetworks squad busts through your door. Choose one last Night at the Opera. Choose Delta Green.

    Theatre 
  • Turandot: Calaf sings Nessun Dorma (None shall Sleep) despite the very likely chance the woman he loves, the titular character, is moving heaven and earth to have him executed so she wouldn't have to marry him. It's this passion the reason why it became a popular song among sports fans and even used in pop culture to signify victory.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
    • Subverted with the execution of Pekoyama, who tries to go down swinging against an army of robots until she accidentally badly injures her childhood friend who's she's spent her whole life protecting as his bodyguard, who rushed in to try and save her, allowing the robot army to finish her off while she's having a "My God, What Have I Done?" moment, gently cradling him as he bleeds.
    • Gundham Tanaka gives the students a Rousing Speech to this effect before heading off to his execution; the students had been locked in a building, slowly starving to death and losing hope, and Tanaka urged them to keep fighting from now on and never give up on life again, which is especially powerful when you remember that the only reason he killed was because he and Nidai agreed that Someone Has to Die, because no one would be freed from the building otherwise, so they had a Duel to the Death to decide which one would die in battle and which would be convicted for the killing and executed. Like Pekoyama, he also attempted to fight back during his execution, despite going willingly, though this ultimately failed.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue has this in Episode 18 of Revelation. Sarge gives this, surprisingly, stating that even though they have no chance of surviving (according to Simmons), they should go out and fight anyway. And the most surprising part is that even the coward Grif does just that.

    Web Comics 
  • In Blue Moon Blossom, when the rabbit spirit is dying, as its last action, it flies over to the pit of rabbits that were turned to stone and crumbles away, restoring them all to life.

    Web Original 
  • Zeke Strahm eventually gets one of these in Seeking Truth. He's hoping to survive, but considering that his opponent is a thus-far undefeated Eldritch Abomination...
  • The protagonists of Sevenshot Kid know that they aren't ready or capable of dealing with a tall, dark stranger but they know they're the only ones that can possibly hope to improve their situation.
  • There are a number of instances of this trope in SCP Foundation, but one of the most spectacular ones is SCP-2069: Aliens attack Earth and rapidly destroy most of the planet's cities and major infrastructure, bringing mankind to its knees, and then the SCP Foundation and Global Occult Coalition join forces into an organization called AEGIS, assume control of every remaining military asset in the world and bring the fight to the aliens. They succeed in destroying nearly half the alien fleet with weaponized satellites while the other half was defending itself against thousands of ICBMs, then launched pretty much everything else at their grounded ships. When the aliens inevitably regain the upper hand through sheer technological and logistical advantage, AEGIS develops a weapon called a Nova Bomb, and, whatever it is, it's powerful enough to punch a hole from their reality into our own, probably taking the aliens with it.

    Web Videos 
  • Mat-Ti in Suburban Knights is driven to one of these after being sent on one too many snipe hunts by the Channel Awesome crew. He goes right up to the Big Bad Malecite's face and declares he's going to fight even though he knows he's totally screwed. Fortunately, his "Heart" ring is actually Aeon's Ring, the one thing that can stop Malecite, and Mat-Ti defeats him. Unfortunately, Mat-Ti still dies in the process.

    Real Life 
  • Most stars larger than red dwarfs tend to go this way, first ballooning up into a red giant and then blowing up as supernova or planetary nebula, with their remnants (White dwarfs, Neutron stars and Black holes) persisting for many, many billions of years afterwards.
  • This is the manifesto of various transhumanist movements whose goal, among other improvements to the human condition, is to make death of old age and associated diseases optional through advancement of technology.
  • Gavrilo Princip personally accepted the mission to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand because he was dying of tuberculosis and wanted to do something significant while he was still alive. The significance of his actions is unquestionable.
  • There are a large number of living organisms that have physical traits (such as poison) or behaviors that injure or kill their predators even as the organism itself dies. While this does not benefit the organism itself, it does benefit their species by making predators avoid them in the future.
  • The Third Punic War was this for Carthage. After the first two Punic Wars, Carthage was nothing more than a bit player that Rome could basically just boss around with ease. When provocations finally forced Carthage to violate their peace treaty with Rome, they buckled down and resisted the much larger Roman armies for three years, despite being completely alone.
  • The end of the German merchant raider Kormoran during World War II fits the trope to a t: cornered by the light cruiser HMAS Sydney, that outclassed her by an enormous margin note . Also, being an actual warship facing a converted merchant ship, Sydney had better armor and fire control, and, having the main battery on turrets, could concentrate all its heavy firepower on either broadside while Kormoran could use only three of her heavy guns at most... The crew of the Kormoran, that was intercepted while disguised as the liner Straat Malakka, bullshitted their way into having the enemy come very close (even launching a distress signal claiming they were under attack from a corsair), and when the enemy was at 1000 m they opened fire with everything they had. At the end of the battle Kormoran was so damaged the skipper ordered her scuttled, but not before seeing their opponent run away on fire until she sunk. While 82 of the Kormoran's crew died in the engagement, the majority survived; the same cannot be said for Sydney, which sunk with all hands.
  • In the North Sea on April 8, 1940. In one corner, HMS Glowworm, a 1500 ton destroyer armed with four 4.7 inch guns and 10 torpedoes. In the other, the 18,500-ton German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper with eight 8-inch guns and twelve 4.1 inch guns. The Glowworm was a burning, near-totaled wreck but its final action was ramming the Admiral Hipper, then blowing up and sinking. Although the Germans were able to continue their mission despite the damage, Lt. Commander Gordon Roope, captain of the destroyer, was awarded the first Victoria Cross of the war. Part of the reason was the recommendation of Kapitän zur See Helmuth Heye, captain of the Admiral Hipper, sent through the Red Cross after the battle praising the bravery of Roope and his crew in a fight they had no chance of winning.
  • In the North Atlantic on November 5th, 1940, the cargo ship SS Beaverford was part of Convoy HX-84 en route to Britain from Canada when it came under attack from the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. The Scheer quickly sank the convoy's only escort, the HMS Jervis Bay, and began to engage the merchant ships in the formation. 60-year-old Captain Hugh Pettigrew initially turned to scatter into the night with the rest of the convoy, as Beaverford was relatively modern and was one of the few ships with enough speed to have a good chance at escaping. He then saw the German battleship attacking the cargo vessel Kenbane Head and ordered his ship to come about and engage enemy. The Beaverford lacked any form of armor and possessed only two small anti-submarine guns, but the ship managed to keep the Scheer tied down for almost five hours (its armed escort had only managed 22 minutes) by dodging in and out of smoke banks between salvos and using its speed to evade return fire. Beaverford was eventually sunk with all hands by accumulated battle damage and a torpedo hit, but the time it bought allowed most of the surviving ships to escape and reach safety in Britain.
  • The poem is being read to a rousing music in a commercial about fighting cancer. With so much success in treating the various forms of it, it'd be stupid of people to just give up. Of course, this has some victim-blaming Unfortunate Implications by implying that if you do die of cancer, it's your own fault for not fighting hard enough. Many cancer survivors object to war terminology (fighting cancer, battle with cancer, etc.) for this reason.
  • When space agencies, be ESA or NASA, dispose by destroying them for whatever reasons of (robotic!) spacecrafts that have ended their missions, it's quite usual they'll be programmed to send science data until the very end.
    • Cassini, which had spent the previous 12 years orbiting Saturn to study it, was intentionally crashed into Saturn to avoid the risk of spreading biological or chemical contaminants to any of the planet's moons that would likely be visited again later; in a grand finale, the probe was sent on a sequence of spectacular dives into closer and closer orbits, flying through the planet's rings before burning up in its atmosphere, and it kept its camera going until the very end.
    • Other space probes have had considerably shorter lifespans, but still had enough time to achieve their goal before being claimed by their battery dying or the adverse conditions around them; Huygens, which was launched along with Cassini to study Saturn's largest moon, Titan, had enough time to image Titan's atmosphere as it gently glided down to the surface. It then had just enough time (roughly 90 minutes) to beam back photos of Titan's surface to Cassini, and the results, while blurry, are still spectacular; as Huygens stared down its fate, it had managed to capture the most distant photographs taken from the surface of a celestial body other than Earth. The view it had of the surrounding landscape revealed some rather fascinating things about the moon's surface, such as the ground littered with a mixture of rock and ice pebbles, with their rounded shape supporting a theory that fluid hydrocarbons flow on the moon, having rounded the stones much like how water does the same on Earth.
  • Richard Russell, a.k.a. the "Sky King". An airport employee with apparently no pilot training aside from video games who stole a plane on August 10, 2018 and took it for a joyride, performing some stunts like loops and rolls with it with the Air Force in hot pursuit. Yes, he did a barrel roll, which made his stunt extra impressive as the maneuver is difficult for even experienced pilots, and the plane he was in wasn't built with such techniques in mind. Once he was almost out of gas, he intentionally crashed the plane into a mostly uninhabited island. It's unknown what exactly prompted him to end his life with such a spectacle, but he described himself as a "broken guy" and stated that he just wanted to take in the sights before "calling it a night". Once knowledge of the event became public, Russell was seen as a Tragic Hero in the eyes of the Internet, as he never hurt anyone and spent his final moments entertaining himself and others.
  • The Chen Sheng and Wu Guang uprising started due to two army officers who where delayed in their duties by flooding. Given that the Qin dynasty's punishment for being late was execution and was the same for rebellion, the two decided to fight instead of accepting execution. This rebellion, while unsuccessful, would lead to the eventual downfall of the Qin dynasty.


 
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Alternative Title(s): Go Out With A Bang

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After being mortally wounded by Dutch, the Predator activates its final weapon: a wrist-mounted explosive powerful enough to blow up a good portion of the jungle. As Dutch runs for his life, the Predator lets out a warped, echoing version of Billy's laugh that it had heard previously.

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