Study Guide

Epitaph for an Old Woman Burial

By Octavio Paz

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Life, death, and emotion in this poem are all discussed in the setting of an old woman's burial. Good times, right? Well, not exactly, but while funerals are different in every culture, they are often quite important. They are a time to not only mourn a life that has passed, but to think about life and death in general. They also represent a departure for the dead, and a chance to reflect on how their life (and passing) have affected us.

  • Title: The title of this poem tells us that it is an epitaph, and thus is something that might be engraved on a gravestone, or read at a funeral. Thus, we know already that this poem probably has to do with a burial. 
  • Line 1: Here, we get deeper into the image of the burial. We find out that this burial is in the family tomb. This tells us something about the woman's funeral, burial, and life. This woman probably comes from an old family that sticks to its traditions, always burying its members in this same tomb. 
  • Lines 2-4: These lines show that this isn't just a plain description of a burial, or else a dead person, turned to dust, would not be trembling. This burial goes beyond real life and becomes almost surreal, or dreamlike. 
  • Lines 5-6: These lines seem like the gist of this epitaph, and they would be the most appropriate part of the poem to be printed on a grave. They speak of emotions felt at many burials, where people's lives and triumphs are discussed in the light of their death.

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