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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.4, 789 ~ 807, 2020
Reading Eliot’s Four Quartets: Looking at the Gap between Kairos and Chronos
Cheolhee Lee
Most critics have investigated Eliot’s Four Quartets in terms of the question of time as the starting point, and others grapple with the question of Christianity as the major issue for their discussion, suggesting Four Quartets as the sum of Eliot’s Christianity. They argue that Eliot draws his attention to the relation between God and humans throughout the Four Quartets, and that Eliot demands humans to obey God’s will without showing their obstinate attitudes. This reductionist interpretation reveals the fact that they neglect to contextualize Eliot’s conceptualization of time in terms of Kairos and Chronos, which will combine the question of time with that of Christianity. It is my contention that we can divide Eliot’s time into spiritual (Kairos) and physical time (Chronos) based on the human’s mind. In short, Kairos is the spiritual time and Chronos the human time. The former is invisible while the latter is visible and measurable. According to Eliot, it is necessary that humans’ minds should focus on God’s Words known as Kairos, and humans should live on the basis of Kairos. That is how they could deviate from Chronos, allowing them to go into Kairos. What Eliot suggests is that humans look at Kairos which is not measurable. By thinking of Kairos, they could avoid their inner biological and greedy desire and detach themselves from their own self, external things, and other persons while depending on prayer. In doing so, humans can directly communicate with God. The state of mind during prayer is beyond human consciousness and derives Kairos from the order of words and the sound of the voice praying. Furthermore, Eliot describes the moment when he can confront God, and defines it as Kairos. I argue that Eliot shows the relation of Chronos and Kairos throughout the Four Quartets, thereby interrelating the themes of time and Christianity in tandem.
Key Words
Chronos, Kairos, Four Quartets, time, humans
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