Study Guide

Four Quartets Man and the Natural World

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Man and the Natural World

For T. S. Eliot, it's totally necessary for modern individuals to stop focusing so much on all of their personal goals and ambitions. (Good, we were tired of working so hard, anyway.) In this sense, nature provides him with a perfect foil for reminding us how the natural world doesn't really care all that much about the feats we accomplish in life. Like a river, nature just keeps doing what it's always done. But for the speaker of "Four Quartets," the indifference of nature isn't a sad thing. Rather, it's the only thing that'll help us get over ourselves and back to enjoying the present moment the same way that children can.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What do you think is the main significance of the "bird" in the garden of "Burnt Norton"? What message is this thing trying to teach us? 
  2. What is the speaker getting at when he talks about the brown river god at the beginning of "The Dry Salvages"? How does he contrast this god against the bridges and buildings that humans building around or over it?
  3. How are humans supposed to reconnect with nature? What's the biggest obstacle keeping us from doing so?

Chew on This

For the speaker, the world would be better off if humans didn't exist and nature was allowed to run its course and do its own thing.

"Four Quartets" is an early example of what we would refer to today as "Eco Poetry." In other words, the poem is mainly about the destructive impact of humans on the environment. Jerky humans.

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