Study Guide

Four Quartets Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Eliot, T.S.

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

In "Four Quartets," questions of time, humility, man and the natural world, and memory are all ultimately connected to questions of life, consciousness, and existence. The main thrust of Eliot's themes: the modern world is a very unhappy place, even when it might think it's happy. We all live in a world of total alienation, whether it's alienation from our true selves, from others, or from nature. We need to find a way to connect with the world around us and with the spiritual truth inside us, and the only way we can really do this is if we totally overhaul the way we look at the world and our place in it.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. For the speaker, what exactly do modern people need to change about the way they live their lives? In what basic ways is he calling for a change in human existence?
  2. According to this poem, what does your true self look like? How have you gotten away from this true self?
  3. What specific pain does the speaker associate with modern consciousness? Does he ever diagnose a clear cause for this pain? If so, what is it?
  4. How do we fool ourselves into thinking everything is fine in the modern world? What examples from the text support your answer?

Chew on This

For the speaker, any significant change in the world is going to first require a change in people's approach to life and existence in general—sounds easy enough.

According to "Four Quartets," human beings used to have a better form of consciousness, but somewhere along the line, things got messed up. (We're looking at you, 1970s.)

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