What meaningful questions about life does Eliot pose in his poems "Preludes," “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Journey of the Magi,” “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” and “The Hollow Men"?

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In poems like “Preludes,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Journey of the Magi,” “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” and “The Hollow Men,” T. S. Eliot presents his readers with more questions than answers as he pushes them to...

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In poems like “Preludes,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Journey of the Magi,” “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” and “The Hollow Men,” T. S. Eliot presents his readers with more questions than answers as he pushes them to examine life closely and discover what meaning may be in it. Let's look at some of the questions Eliot suggests.

We might first think about the question of whether life has any meaning at all or if it is simply a set of mindless, daily routines. Eliot wants his readers to think of the depths, if any, behind the everyday. He suggests that there are indeed depths, yet some of his poetic characters, like Prufrock, have difficulty finding them. Prufrock is so paralyzed by life that he cannot make even the simplest decisions.

Herein lies another question. Eliot urges us to think about what human beings are supposed to do with their lives. What gives people purpose? What makes them human? How are they supposed to interact with the world? Look at “The Hollow Men” here. There are also questions about death and the soul embedded in this poem, as well as questions and reflections on the emptiness of the modern world and its failure to satisfy. “Preludes” asks about the modern world as well and about its desolation.

Eliot also proposes questions about journeying and the metaphoric journey of life. “The Journey of the Magi” is important here as the Magi set out to find a particular place and are changed in such a way that they are never again satisfied with their previous lives. Here we can think about what it is that changes people and how people change. The poem also raises questions about the relationship between birth and death.

Questions about memory stand at the heart of “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” We find ourselves wondering about the relationship between the past and the present and what the past can tell us about the present.

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