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The Lotos-Eaters

The Lotos-Eaters

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Death Theme

There's a lot of death imagery in "The Lotus-Eaters." Maybe it doesn't jump out at you at first, but as you comb back through, you notice that the sailors seem a little bit obsessed with death. Sometimes their sleepy, dreamy mood slips over into wanting to sleep forever, or in other words: D to the I to the E. At other times, the image of death comes from nature, from the endless cycle of birth, growth, and death. Whatever the reason for it, it seems like these guys are in kind of a bad place.

Questions About Death

  1. In what ways might the Lotos-eaters (sailors included) be running away from death? 
  2. If Lotus land is like heaven to the sailors, do you blame them for wanting to die? What parts of the poem support your answer?
  3. Is death a violent and scary force in this poem, or something more relaxing and peaceful?

Chew on This

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

Eating the Lotos plant allows the sailors to think about death in a new way—not as something scary, but as an inevitable, calm, even comfortable part of life. Far out.

While the sleepy mood of the sailors seems peaceful, or maybe even kind of goofy-funny, the constant talk about death reveals that there is something much more sinister going on underneath. (Cue the spooky music…)

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