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Journey of the Magi

Journey of the Magi

by T.S. Eliot

Death Theme

To the Magi, the loss of their traditions to impending Christianity is like staring both death and defeat in the face at once. Death doesn't make its real entrance until the end of "Journey of the Magi," but when it finally does sashay onto the scene, it puts all too fine a point on what the coming of Jesus means to the Magi and their people.

Questions About Death

  1. How does the poem build up to explicit talk of death in the third stanza?
  2. Answer the Magus's question: do you think they were led all that way for Birth or for Death?
  3. How are birth and death conflated (i.e., made similar, or combined) in this poem?
  4. How are spiritual and literal death intertwined in this poem? Where in the poem do they seem particularly linked?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Journey of the Magi" makes poignant commentary on the fact that Jesus was literally born to die. That's the real gist of the poem—not the Magis' long-lost way of life.

The spiritual death of the Magus is horrific enough for him to wish for actual bodily death, too. It's extreme, but for him, it's the only solution.

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