Study Guide

Epitaph for an Old Woman Sadness

By Octavio Paz

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It's only fitting that an epitaph would cover the theme of sadness, but "Epitaph for an Old Woman" doesn't wallow in its sorrow. It allows us to feel grief over this woman's death, but it also helps us to understand that the sadness only comes from joy. Weird—but if you think about it, it's true. Still, we're not sure if that helps with the sorrow or deepens it. Either way, as depressing as this poem can be, it can also be read as an uplifting take on the nature of sorrow. So turn those frowns upside-down, campers!

Questions About Sadness

  1. Is sorrow or joy more important in this poem? Why?
  2. How sorrowful do you feel when you read this poem? Why? What part is most or least sorrowful for you? 
  3. Do you think the husband trembles because he is sorrowful, or because he is glad? Why? 
  4. What, in your life, has been your most sorrowful experience? Does this poem make sense in the context of that experience? Why, or why not?

Chew on This

This poem shows that sorrow only exists because joy exists. (You know, that whole yin-yang thing.)

Well this is depressing. This poem shows that all joy results in sorrow.

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