Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"Gerontion" is a 1920 poem written by famed English poet T. S. Eliot. The main protagonist (or the speaker of the poem) is an older, pessimistic man: a gerontic (gerontion literally translates to 'little old man') who talks about his lost will to live and his views and opinions on the world. While Eliot incorporates several themes, the main themes are religion, spirituality, history, humanity, philosophy, faith, will, and sexuality. The poem is written in free verse and it consists of six stanzas. Because of the way it is written, the poem is often said to have a dramatic structure, as the old man's thoughts resemble a monologue.
The man is a neutral person; we don't particularly like him nor do we dislike him. In fact, one might argue that he is not even completely realistic. Instead, he is an allegorical figure; a symbol or a metaphor of us—the human civilization (mainly the Western world)—which Eliot describes as selfish and superficial and elaborates on our conservative nature and peculiar fascination with our own demise.
There are several other charachters that are mentioned throughout the poem; however, they don't seem to have a special or significant role or meaning. In fact, the speaker mentions them quite randomly after he introduces us to a tiger who is both figuratively and literally Jesus Christ. The speaker tells us that "Christ the tiger" came to devour and be devoured by Mr. Silvero, by Hakagawa, by Madame de Tornquist, by Fräulein von Kulp, and by De Bailhache, Fresca, and Mrs. Cammel.
In the middle of the poem, the speaker describes a woman he likes and is apparently physically attracted to. However, he also mentions that his love and passion have died because he can no longer rely on his senses and therefore cannot approach nor pursue his love of this woman.