the opening quotation, from the Satyricon of Petronius,
imply about Eliots thematic intentions? How does this
function as a preface to the poem? Who is the Sibyl? What does
she represent? Why is she all shriveled up? Is there any relation
between poets (like Eliot) and prophets (like the Sibyl)? What
is their function? How is their work affected by the condition
and directions of the modern world? What has shrunken to almost
non-existence in that world? What are the implications of a
world without prophets (or poets)?
implied in the burial motif in the first section of the poem?
Why is April the cruellest month? Does that fit
in with traditional perceptions of April? What is the reason
for such a statement? What has happened in a world where springtime
is cruel and painful? How does that fit in with the cycles of
nature? Why would the rebirth of nature be associated with cruelty?
How do memory and desire fit in with those ideas?
Is there any relation to historical events and developments?
What begins again in this cruel spring?
implied by the tale of "Marie" and her cousin, the
archduke? Why the image of sledding down the mountain? Is the
downward motion significant? Does this relate at all to the
historical context? Why does Marie feel free in the mountains?
Why does she read, much of the night and go south in the
winter? What might she be reflecting on?
the heap of broken images? What is implied by the
redness of the rock? The shadow? Why is it your
shadow? Why does it stride behind you in the morning
and rise to meet you in the evening? What kind of
"fear" is Eliot referring to in a handful of
Madame Sosostris foretelling? Is she a legitimate prophet? What
are tarot cards and what do they mean in the poem? How does
she represent the debased condition of the modern world? How
is what she sees both true and false? Who is the drowned Phoenician
Sailor? Who were the Phoenicians? How is this card connected
to Phlebas the Phoenician in Section IV Death by Water?
How about the lady of situations? The man with three
staves? The Wheel? Who is the one-eyed merchant and why did
Eliot create this card? Why does he have only one eye? How are
merchants significant to Eliots theory of the decay of
the modern world? What is he carrying on his back that Madame
Sosostris is forbidden to see? Why cant she find the Hanged
Man? What does it represent?
the Unreal City? What city might Eliot be referring
to? What is going on in the city? Why is the crowd crossing
London Bridge? Is it significant that they are headed for the
financial district of London? Is it significant that there is
a church in the middle of it? Who does the narrator see in downtown
London? Why the allusions to the ancient commercial wars between
Rome and Carthage? Is there any relation between those wars
and the conflicts of the 20th century? Why does the narrator
ask whether a corpse will sprout? Is this question ironic? How
is this related to the cruel spring of the beginning of the
poem? What is meant by Eliots quotation of a line from
Charles Baudelaires Au Lecteur (To the
reader), You! Hypocrite lecteur!-mon semblable,-mon
frere! (You! Hypocritical reader!-my likeness-my
the significance of the game of chess in the second section
of the poem? What is chess? What does it represent? Can it be
linked to the historical context and way of life of the time
period addressed by Eliot? What kind of an environment is described
at the beginning of the section? What is Eliot criticizing in
the characters and lifestyle described here? Why the reference
to the rape of Philomel? Who are the speakers and players of
the game of chess? Who is speaking? Any relationship to Eliots
the issues in the situation of Lil and her husband? What did
she do with the money intended for her false teeth? How does
this fit in with the broader themes of the poem?
the fire sermon referred to in the third section
of the poem? How does the polluted Thames River fit in with
the ideas of the sermon? What role does Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna
merchant play here? What is he proposing to the speaker? Why
the continued references to the rape of Philomel and the Unreal
City? How about the story of the typist and her visitor?
Is this a love story? What kinds of feelings are involved? Any
thematic connection to the story of Lil? What about the story
of the canoe ride down the Thames? How are love and sexuality
treated in these situations? How do people feel about each other?
Why is Carthage brought up again? Why is everything said to
in the fourth section, Death by Water? Does this
tie into the prophecy of Madame Sosostris? Why is water involved?
Any relation to biblical imagery? Who was Phlebas? Is it significant
that he was a Phoenician? Is it important that the Phoenicians
were an ancient race of merchants? Is it significant that the
Phoenicians invented, for commercial record keeping, the alphabet
which we now use? What are the ideas and ironies of those facts?
What happened to Phlebas? Why is it said that he forgot the
profit and loss? What warnings are implicit in those images
the meaning of the imagery and events of Section 5, What
the Thunder Said? How do things begin? How does the weather
change? What is implied or suggested in that change? What is
the meaning of the transition from absolute dryness to the thunder
without rain and then the raindrops at the end of the
poem? Why does the scene shift to the river Ganges and the Himalayas?
Is there special significance to those places?
Who is the
third person always beside you? What is implied
by the crowing of the cock and the subsequent coming of the
rain? What does the cock symbolize? What biblical stories are
alluded to in these passages? How are the religious traditions
of the east and west brought together in this section of the
the meaning of the image of the fisherman? Why is he considering
putting his lands in order? Why is London Bridge
said to be falling down? What is the meaning of the phrase these
fragments I have shored against my ruins? Why the reference
to madness immediately before the final words of the poem? Who
is the madman here? Does the whole poem sound like the ravings
of a lunatic? Is there sense or method to this madness? Any
connections to representations of madness in other literature?
the thunder say? What are Datta, Dayadhvam, and
Damyata? What do each of those words mean? What is shantih?
What is the connection between the meaning of the words of the
thunder, the coming of rain, and the idea of shantih?
What is happening to the waste land?