Study Guide

Four Quartets Humility

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If you're going to find some way out of the pain of modern existence, humility will have to be your starting point. The farther along you get in "Four Quartets," the more it seems that Eliot is convinced that the biggest cause of pain in our lives lies with our own ego. Our egos make us worry about what we're doing with our lives; they make us obsessed with how other people see us; and worst of all, they make us terrified at the idea of dying. It's only when we get over these things that we can really start to feel fulfilled. As Eliot reminds us, though, getting over ourselves might require us to go through quite a bit of pain before we come out on the other side.

Questions About Humility

  1. How does the speaker suggest we go about becoming more humble? What examples from the text support your answer?
  2. At what point in "Four Quartets" does humility really start to become a major part of the poem's focus? Why do you think it becomes important at this specific point?
  3. How is the image of fire connected to humility in this poem? Wouldn't you expect fire to be more connected to ambition or lust?
  4. How does the speaker change our expectations toward fire as a symbol?
  5. How does having an ego make us miserable? What kinds of misery does it cause? What specific examples from the text support your answer?

Chew on This

For the speaker, we all need to start being more humble if we're ever going to be happy, and the only way we can accomplish this is if we think constantly about our own deaths. Good times.

For the speaker, humility is necessary because quite frankly, we're not all going to be famous and exceptional. So it's best to just accept our mediocrity. Slightly better good times?

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