The Family Reunion

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I don't belong to any generation.
I am not speaking
Of my own experience, but trying to give you
Comparisons in a more familiar medium.
Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for...
They don't understand what it is to be awake,
To be living on several planes at once
Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.
Everything tends towards reconciliation
As a stone falls, as the tree falls, And in the end
That is the completion which at the beginning
would have seemed the ruin.
Accident is design
And design is accident
In a cloud of unknowing.
The circle of our understanding
Is a very restricted area.

The Family Reunion (1939) is a play by T. S. Eliot. Written mostly in blank verse (though not iambic pentameter), it incorporates elements from Greek drama and mid-twentieth-century detective plays to portray the hero's journey from guilt to redemption. The play was unsuccessful when first presented in 1939, and was later regarded as unsatisfactory by its author, but has been successfully revived since the 1940s. Some critics have thought aspects of the tormented hero reflect Eliot's own difficulties with his estrangement from his first wife.

Quotes[edit]

  • I don't belong to any generation.
  • The man who returns will have to meet
    The boy who left
    .
  • Thus with most careful devotion
    Thus with precise attention
    To detail, interfering preparation
    Of that which is already prepared
    Men tighten the knot of confusion
    Into perfect misunderstanding
  • All that I can hope to make you understand
    Is only events: not what has happened.
    And people to whom nothing has ever happened
    Cannot understand the unimportance of events.
  • You are all people
    To whom has happened, at most a continual impact
    Of external events. You have gone through life in sleep.
    Never woken to the nightmare. I tell you life would be unendurable
    If you were wide awake. You do not know
    The noxious smell untraceable in the drains,
    Inaccessible to the plumbers, that has its hour of the night; you do not know
    The unspoken voice of sorrow in the ancient bedroom
    At three o'clock in the morning. I am not speaking
    Of my own experience, but trying to give you
    Comparisons in a more familiar medium.
    I am the old house
    With the noxious smell and the sorrow before morning,
    In which all past is present, all degradation
    Is unredeemable. As for what happens —
    Of the past you can only see what is past,
    Not what is always present. That is what matters.
  • This is what matters, but it is unspeakable.
    Untranslatable: I talk in general terms
    Because the particular has no language.
  • You isolate the single event
    As something so dreadful that it couldn't have happened
    Because you could not bear it. So you must believe
    That I suffer from delusions. It is not my conscience
    Not my mind, that is diseased, but the world I have to live in.
  • Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
  • I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for.
    At this moment there is no decision to be made;
    The decision will be made by powers beyond us
    Which now and then emerge.
  • One thing you cannot know:
    The sudden extinction of every alternative,
    The unexpected crash of the iron cataract.
    You do not know what hope is, until you have lost it.
    You only know what it is not to hope:
    You do not know what it is to have hope taken from you,

    Or to fling it away, to join the legion of the hopeless
    Unrecognized by other men, though sometimes by each other.
  • If I tried to explain, you could never understand;
    Explaining would only make a worse misunderstanding...
  • It's all a delusion,
    Everything you feel — I don't mean what you think,
    But what you feel. You attach yourself to loathing
    As others do to loving; an infatuation
    That's wrong, a good that is misdirected.
  • Pain is the opposite of joy,
    but joy is a kind of pain
    I believe the moment of birth
    Is when we have knowledge of death
    I believe the season of birth
    Is the season of sacrifice
  • It is only when they see nothing
    That people can always show the suitable emotions —
    And so far as they feel at all, their emotions are suitable.
    They don't understand what it is to be awake,
    To be living on several planes at once
    Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.
  • To rest in your own suffering
    Is evasion of suffering. We must learn to suffer more.
  • The moment of sudden loathing
    And the season of stifled sorrow
    The whisper, the transparent deception
    The keeping up of appearances
    The making the best of a bad job
    All twined and tangled together, all are recorded.
  • There is nothing at all to be done about it,
    There is nothing to do about anything
  • Everything is true in a different sense,
    A sense that would have seemed meaningless before.
    Everything tends towards reconciliation
    As a stone falls, as the tree falls, And in the end
    That is the completion which at the beginning
    would have seemed the ruin.
  • Accident is design
    And design is accident
    In a cloud of unknowing.
  • Harry has crossed the frontier
    Beyond which safety and danger have a different meaning.

    And he cannot return. That is his privilege.
  • I've no gift of language, but I'm sure of what I mean:
    We most of us seem to live according to circumstance,
    But with people like him, there's something inside them
    That accounts for what happens to them. You get a feeling of it.
  • He is every bit as sane as you or I,
    He sees the world as clearly as you or I see it,
    It is only that he has seen a great deal more than that.
  • The circle of our understanding
    Is a very restricted area.

    Except for a limited number
    Of strictly practical purposes
    We do not know what we are doing;
    And even then, when you think of it,
    We do not know much about thinking.

External links[edit]

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