Study Guide

Four Quartets Time

By Eliot, T.S.

Time

There might be no word that the speaker repeats in "Four Quartets" more than "time." One of the reasons he's so repetitive about it is because he wants us to look at time in a completely new way. (No, we're not talking pocket watches.) Most of us take it totally for granted that time is something that moves forward second-by-second, and that's that. Time is progressive, leading us toward a future that is always better than the past. But time, says our trusty speaker, is not as simple as a straight line, and it's not as simple as moving from beginnings to endings. All time is one time, he tells us, because all of our worldly sadness comes from the fact that we don't live in the present moment. Our minds always take us into the past and future as though these things actually existed. But only the present moment exists, and it's about time we started to realize that, gang.

Questions About Time

  1. For the speaker, what's so bad about thinking about the past and the future as if they were separate from the present?
  2. Why is the speaker so repetitive when it comes to talking about time, especially in "Burnt Norton"? How is his view of time non-logical, and how does this approach require him to be repetitive?Ā 
  3. How can our modern sense of time become more connected to the present moment by connecting with nature? What specific examples from the text support your answer?

Chew on This

For the speaker, the first step to becoming a better person is to throw out your wristwatch and to take all the clocks out of your house.

For the speaker, it's totally possible to exist outside the flow of time. Mind blowing, we know, but this is where true enlightenment happens.

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