In Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot presents a conflicting emotional duality which Becket faces concerning whether he will become a historical celebrity or not. How far does this struggle convey the...

In Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot presents a conflicting emotional duality which Becket faces concerning whether he will become a historical celebrity or not.

How far does this struggle convey the meaning of the work as a whole?

Asked on by shewa55

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear that the views and feelings of Thomas surrounding his death are used by Eliot to explore one of the central themes of the play, which can be described as the conflict between flesh and spirit. Thomas throughout the play has to fight between his own earthly desire to act in a way that serves his own interests and his heavenly spirit that craves only God's will for his life. However, it is the final Tempter that forces Thomas to question whether his willingness to die and be a martyr for God is actually spirit or his own fleshly desire for praise and recognition. Note what this Tempter advises Thomas to do:

Seek the way of martyrdom, make yourself the lowest

On earth, to be high in heaven.

Through dying for God, Thomas will be exalted above all others, satisfying his pride, the Tempter suggests. Thomas is shaken by this temptation, and eventually, after examining his conscience, is forced to abandon himself to God to search out and to know his own motives for willingly martyring himself better than Thomas does. However, this element of the play does explicitly relate to the conflict between flesh and spirit that runs central throughout the life of Thomas as depicted in the text.

 

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