“The End of All Our Exploring”: The Gift Half Understood and Four Quartets

  • G. Douglas Atkins


Understanding the meaning and significance of Incarnation—the universal pattern of which the Incarnation of God in human flesh stands as paradigmatic instance—sheds valuable new light on The Waste Land. Reading the earlier poem not so much through the perspective of Four Quartets as with the later work as an other, critical, eye confirms the wastelanders’ mistake in seeking water to relieve their plight (instead of fire). At the same time, our new awareness of the satirical character of the earlier poem alerts us to problems with some of the speakers in Four Quartets, especially the lyrical voices in the fourth sections and thus enables a fresh understanding of the thematic and rhetorical uses of writing as subject in the fifth and final sections.


Wrong Thing Universal Pattern Christmas Tree Lyric Poet Paradigmatic Instance 
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  1. 1.
    T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    T.S. Eliot, Ash-Wednesday: Six Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1930).Google Scholar

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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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  • G. Douglas Atkins

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