Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Analysis

Form and Content (Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

On the surface, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a surprising change of pace, coming as it does from one of the most serious and, as some regard him, gloomy poets of the twentieth century: T. S. Eliot, the author of such somber works as “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), The Waste Land (1922), and “The Hollow Men” (1925). In sharp contrast, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats seems refreshingly lighthearted and devil-may-care in the sheer energy of its play of both language and imagination. Yet, lurking beneath its surface is the potential of a darker intent, just as the potential of a lighter or at least ironic intent peaks continuously out of the corners and from behind the lines of Eliot’s more sober and serious literary endeavors.

The volume is composed of fourteen poems, none longer than two full pages, composed in a variety of rudimentary stanzaic patterns, ranging from quatrains to stanzas whose varying lengths, like those of prose paragraphs, are determined more by content than any preconceived structural principle. One outstanding prosodic feature is the nearly complete use of couplets, although several of the poems—“The Naming of Cats,” “The Song of the Jellicles,” and “Old Deuteronomy”—employ true quatrains, utilizing an abab rhyme scheme throughout, and “Of the Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” uses three-line rhymes.

The poetry saves its true inventiveness for the clever use of language, which at times approaches the sprightliness of nursery rhymes and nonsense verse largely because of the...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Setting

The poems in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats are not restricted to a specific time and place, but the few references establish the...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Literary Qualities

Eliot's Cats have been much admired for their complexity of character. In relatively brief descriptions, the poet manages to capture the...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Social Sensitivity

Although Eliot obviously prefers Cats to Dogs (whom he characterizes as easygoing louts), generally he admires and satirizes his Cats without...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Topics for Discussion

1. Each of the Cats is so thorough a blend of human and feline characteristics that Angela Richards, who played Grizabella in the musical...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is in the same tradition of nonsense verse as the works of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. In...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Related Titles / Adaptations

In the 1950s Decca records issued a recording of Eliot reading from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. These poems, along with...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats For Further Reference

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. "Macavity and Moriarty." The Baker Street Journal 28 (1978): 103-104. A discussion of the influence of the...

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Bibliography (Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Ackroyd, Peter. T. S. Eliot: A Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984.

Browne, Elliott Martin. The Making of T. S. Eliot’s Plays. London: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

Donoghue, Denis. Words Alone: The Poet, T. S. Eliot. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000.

Eliot, Valerie, ed. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, 1898-1922. Vol. 1. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.

Gordon, Lyndall. Eliot’s Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Gordon, Lyndall. Eliot’s New Life....

(The entire section is 134 words.)