Analysis of The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Elliot
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T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi” was written the year of Eliot’s baptism into the Church of England in 1927, which made an impact on the content of his poems during that time.1 The poem is written in an allegorical style that has two levels of meaning, literal events, and the symbolic imagery that is evoked with language. Eliot gives the allusion that the poem is about the birth of Christ, but by reversing the situation, he instead parallels the death of Christ, thus forcing a choice upon the reader. The overarching theme of religion, with death and birth at the center is important to understanding this poem. Through the language and symbolic Christian imagery the narrator details the quest of one Magi for Christ, which after he finds that Christ has been crucified, leaves the Magus confused with a feeling of helplessness in a world that has changed, and wondering how he now can find new meaning and purpose for his life.
In the first paragraph the poem describes the journey, as long and grueling against the obstacles of nature and the hostility of man. Eliot’s use of words like “ways deep…weather sharp,” “camels galled…refractory,” “camel men cursing…grumbling,” and “a hard time we had of it,” gives one a clear picture with the difficulties they encountered, and the suffering of the Magi, synonymous with the suffering Christ endured, and is opposite of the joyous account from the Magi the book of Matthew. The Magus looks back at his sinful past life of ease, reminiscing about the “…summer palaces on slopes…,” “…the silken girls bringing sherbet,” while he is physically moving towards Calvary. However, by voicing regret over his past life, one has the sense that the Magus is growing spiritually. It seems his st...
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...ether the overarching theme of religion, with death and birth at the center, and through language and symbolic imagery, the reader is transported on the journey with the Magi to find Christ. Eliot showed the feeling of helplessness the Magus had to his changing world, but he alludes to a new journey looking for his “other death”, one that would give him the gift of eternal life, and ultimately the meaning and purpose he was seeking.
Modern American Poetry,T.S. Eliot's Life and Career. n.d. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm (accessed 04 19, 2011).
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