by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Lotos-Eaters Theme of Versions of Reality
The world looks different to each one of us. That might seem obvious, but it's a pretty big deal for literature. If we all have our own private reality, one of the ways we can talk about that reality is to write about it. In "The Lotus-Eaters," the sailors spend a long time telling us about their particular version of reality. And boy, is it out there. It's no surprise, really. That reality was created, at least in part, by the drug they've taken, the Lotos, which changes the way you feel, the way you see the world. So, in a way, this poem is a long description of the new, slightly twisted reality that the Lotos produces.
Questions About Versions of Reality
- How much does the sailor's dissatisfaction with their previous reality (toil, war, etc.) color their impressions of their current reality in Lotus land? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
- Does the opening and the "Choric Song" of the poem feel like two different realities to you? Why or why not?
- Why do you think we don't learn more about the natives' version of reality?
Chew on This
The separation between the neutral narration of the opening stanzas and the lazy sailors' "Choric Song" helps to emphasize how strange the sailors' perspective on the world has become. (Hint: it's way strange.)
The idea of the enchanted Lotos gives Tennyson a chance to show his readers that reality is a flexible, even imaginary idea, totally dependent on the individual's perspective. Woah.