Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 273
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 what ways do Eliot's Cats resemble Lear's Pussycat or Carroll's Cheshire Cat? What differences exist?
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2. Which of Eliot's Cats is most admirable or least admirable? Why?
3. When critics say Eliot's Cats are complex characters, they mean that most of them cannot be labeled as totally good or totally evil. In fact, Eliot may have been trying to illustrate the difficulty of distinguishing between good and evil individuals. What negative characteristics are found in the admirable Cats, and what positive characteristics in the criminals?
4. Eliot frequently points out that a Cat is not really what he or she appears to be. List some examples of the differences between appearance and reality. What does Eliot seem to be saying about people's ability to discern reality?
5. The musical play Cats is based on these poems in Old Possum's Books of Practical Cats. Compare Eliot's poems with the songs in the musical. What changes were made?
6. For years the musical appeal of Eliot's Cat poems had been recognized, but the difficulty lay in staging and in developing a plot line. How were these difficulties resolved in the musical play Cats?
7. Among Eliot's other poems, the best known are "The Hollow Men" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Are some of the themes developed in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats also found in these poems? What view of man and his world does Eliot express in these poems? In what ways are they different from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats?