Study Guide

Epitaph for an Old Woman Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Octavio Paz

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Life, Consciousness, and Existence

It's a tall task for such a small poem to conquer life, consciousness, and existence, but that's just what "Epitaph for an Old Woman" does. It might seem that this poem is more about death than it is about life, but we think the last two lines turn that on its head—as in, right 'round like a record, baby. The biggest message to take away from this poem is that it is life, and the love of life, that gives death its significance and sadness. And if that doesn't say something about life, consciousness, and existence, well… then we don't know what does.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. Do you think that this poem has a positive or negative view on life? Why? 
  2. What do you think life was like for the old woman in the poem? 
  3. Do you agree with the last two lines of the poem? Why, or why not? 
  4. Do you think life would be as appreciated if folks never died? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Silver lining alert! This poem argues that the reason why death is sad is because life is joyful.

Grey cloud warning! The principle message of this poem is that, no matter how joyful, existence inevitably results in death and sorrow.

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