Uploaded by Sandy Tran

2020-EA-Module-B-T.S.-Eliot-Analysis-and-Arguments-Critical-Study-Notes-Roxie-Jay (1)

Critical Study of Literature
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The first published of Eliot’s poetry (1915). Explores the paralysing effects of modernity on an
individual. The persona is crippled by indecision, trapped in his own mind, unable to act on
even the slightest impulse. Seedy vision of society’s decay, coupling it with the stuffy, overly
formal affairs of his high society. Starting with the epigraph (from Dante’s Inferno), then
addresses the interlocutor. He desperately seeks to ask his question yet hesitates to disturb
the universe. Ultimately impotency hinted at. Through allusion, Prufrock draws out the
failures of modernity, which has stripped its men of the power and nobility that previous
generations had expressed. Prufrock ultimately goes nowhere, accepting that he will grow old
without making the decisions required.
The Dante Epigraph:
Is the modern society Hell? Are we destined to escape? Are we trapped by our own sins? Does
this provide an ironic twist on the opening line? The poem lacks substantial movement. The
epigraph could be spoken by Prufrock to the reader. If this is the case, he is saying to the
reader that since they have come down to his world of despair, he will not be returning to the
world they have both left and therefore the reader will not be able to tell of what he learned
about Prufrock's world. In this way, Prufrock cannot be shamed by exposure.
Prufrock, Time and Space:
It appears Prufrock does not even leave his own room. Physical movement is the same as
imagined movement. Prufrock experiences time subjectivity. Systematic confusion of tenses
and times in the poem.
Modernity 1910-1950s:
Developed as a response to romanticism and post-romanticism. Wanted poetry to reflect the
rapidly changing modern world. Eliot borrowed from the French Symbolists use of
colloquialism and short dramatic scene to create the unique Prufrockian voice.
Reception to Prufrock:
The publication was met with cries of outrage on both sides of the Atlantic, and the first
edition of Eliot’s collection book took four years to sell 500 copies.
Prufrock as the Archetypal Modern Man:
Prufrock’s opening imperative implicates all of humanity in his experiences, becoming a
modern-day Everyman. His fate becomes our fate. Modernity has forced us into our own
minds, unable to connect or communicate, paralysed by each decision.
Dramatic Monologue:
He develops the distinct Prufrockian voice through his direct address to the audience.
However, Mutlu Konuk Blasing argues that the epigraph, quotations, allusions and echoes of
other poets prevents this from being a monologue, but instead a polylogue, overflowing with
voices from the past. The inclusion of the epigraph sets this as a piece of writing, taking away
from the power of Prufrock’s truth.
Stream of Consciousness:
Interior monologue, representing narrative as language. Simultaneously a soliloquy
expressing a conflict between alternative attitudes the outcome of which is fundamental to
the character’s destiny. If we assume that Prufrock does not leave his room, this poem
presents as a stream of consciousness. However, we do not get a full vision of Prufrock,
learning very little about him through the poem.
Who the pronouns represent is not as clear as we would expect. On one hand, the you is us,
the audience. It could also be a fictional interlocutor. Knowing that Prufrock is stuck in his
own consciousness could mean that the you is in fact Prufrock himself. The interlocutor is
prevented from prying too deeply into the speaker’s consciousness.
Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche:
Metonymy: where a thing is referred to by the name of something that is closely associated
with it.
Synecdoche: where a part of something represents a whole.
In Prufrock, all metaphors disintegrate in this way. The yellow fog is identified through its
parts and actions, never specified as a cat. The women Prufrock lusts over suffers the same
fate, reduced to their attractive elements.
Sexual Imagery:
Comes from the desire to ask the unspoken question and the horror caused by the power sex
has to metonymize – the control one part has over the whole. When sexual desire arises, it is
quickly diverted into an aside or a bracket as Prufrock tries to keep his lust under wraps.
Poet, Persona and Metanarrative:
Prufrock is often read as an aspect of Eliot’s personality. Metanarrative, exploring Eliot’s
frustration at trying to write in a medium which limits his personal expression. The canonical
allusions are what he struggles against, hence why Eliot plays with different poetic structures.
Etherised and Pinned:
Surgical distance. Suggestive of the numbing effect of modernity, but also calls to mind the
disconnected nature of Prufrock himself. Metaphorically, Prufrock becomes the insects,
pinned out and put on display. He is trapped in his life. There is no empathy for his plight in
this clinical experience of society.
Michelangelo Couplet:
A juxtaposition is developed between the two, with the triviality of the women contrasted
with the grandeur of the artist, possibly only discussed because he has been canonised rather
than from knowledge.
He employs multiple forms of verbs to increase intensity at various moments. Infinite verbs –
to have bitten off, to have squeezed, to roll. Transitive verbs – the matter, the universe, it.
Expresses Prufrock’s impulse to combat the forces of disorder. Yet, he will never carry out
these actions. Juxtaposes with the passive personality of the persona. He sets these infinitives
against present participles (-ing). Creates a constant sense of moving, despite the fact that it
appears to be within an imagined space. The normal structured relied upon within reality are
no longer applicable if we are trapped with Prufrock within his mind.
The true poet had to absorb tradition and connect with all the complications of that tradition.
Eliot’s poetry has undeniable filiation with the romantic poets. Eliot draws on the past to
create new meaning within the present. The present no longer has the beauty that past poets
Dante’s Epigraph:
Guido de Montefeltro addresses Dante and Virgil. He is in the 8th level of Hell, the place for
false counsellors, making us question the information that follows. “Let us go then, you and
I”. ‘Then’ ties this epigraph to the rest of the poem. The world is now Hell.
Marvell and Sisyphus:
Sisyphus refused heaven for another chance at life on earth, who, for eternity, must roll a
boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down the other side and be forced to start over. Prufrock
repeatedly envisions himself, through the use of allusion, in the position of a tragic figure.
Prufrock lacks the gallantry of Marvell’s persona. He cannot act and is forced into his own
Rich man Dives dies and goes to Hell. Lazarus is poor and dies and goes to Heaven. Dives begs
the prophet Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his brothers to mend their ways,
so they don’t end up in Hell. Abraham refuses. Prufrock believes he is Dives; he cannot escape
John the Baptist:
Announced the coming of Jesus as well as baptises him. He criticises Herod and is jailed before
being beheaded and having his head placed on a silver platter. Prufrock is metonymizing, he
is reduced to his head, and the bald spot. His vain fears about the judgement of women. His
head and brain do not matter.
Characterised by indecision. He does eventually act and kill people then he dies too, as poetic
punishment for his inability to act. Prufrock denies that he is Hamlet. He is Polonius who is
useless. He talks too much and with no consequence. Polonius is Hamlet’s first victim. He is
hiding behind a curtain and spying on Hamlet when he is stabbed. Prufrock is less than the
man who is the archetypal picture of inaction. He is not a main character but instead a side
_ ___ Iamb
___ _ Trochee
___ _ _ Dactyl
_ _ ___ Anapest
Hamlet and Form:
Eliot alludes to Hamlet textually and with meter as well. He switches to Iambic Pentameter
and maintains it throughout, except for a single line where he breaks it. Dropping of meter
shows insincerity.
Heroic Couplets:
Written in Iambic Pentameter. Are complete (not a part of a larger example of enjambment).
Couplets which fail to break from enjambment are considered loose heroic couplets.
Rotation of pentameter and hexameter. The heroic couplets and hexameter both allude to
narratives of great heroism and Eliot uses them ironically. The poem does not maintain any
consistency in meter. It is almost constantly in flux. Captures Prufrock’s thought pattern. He
is haunted by his looming death but refrains repeatedly that “There will be time”. The meter
becomes a temporal embodiment of this anxiety. It takes control of reading patterns and
never allows them to be truly comfortable with its structure.
Inconsistent and intermittent. The poem’s lack of structure reinforces Prufrock’s halting,
anxious nature, and his inability to make a decision. Despite the sense of abandonment of
form, his choices are deeply structured and purposeful.
The Petrarchan Sonnet Structure:
Three-lined stanzas are rhymes as the conclusion of a Petrarchan would be, but their
pessimistic, anti-romantic content creates a contrast that comments upon the bitter and
broken state of modernity.
Complete Metrical Breakdown:
Undercuts any sense of Prufrock as a tragic figure. Shatters any consistency of thought in both
Prufrock and the reader. Draws our attention to the fragmentation resulting from the conflicts
of modernity.
Eliot shows a world where communication is dysfunctional and individuals are alone, even if
surrounded by others. Relationships are superficial at best. Prufrock decides that he will die
wondering rather than risk disturbing the superficial relationships that already exist in the
society he frequents. He would rather be an old man wandering along the beach than be a
specimen wriggling on a pin or someone rejected because of a misunderstanding.
Preludes (1911)
The poem is divided into four sections. The first describes the winter evening, setting the
scene, creating a picture of a dark street in a run-down town. In the second section, morning
comes, but the street is barely improved by it. It serves only to move people on to their
humdrum, repetitive days. The third section is written in second person, you are now in the
world. It is the thought process of someone brought on by self-reflection in the dark. In the
fourth section, the theme of disillusionment continues but the perspective has changed. The
speaker talks about the repetitive actions of the people who pursue this meaningless
existence. The speaker is interested in beauty and fragility and suffering. The speaker
acknowledges that everything is awful, and nothing can be done.
Preludes I:
Pathetic fallacy – weather used to reflect emotions. Poem emphasises an atmosphere of
decay, challenged by the final line. Sibilance – constant use of ‘s’. Gradually turns into
relentless beating rain with the use of meter and sibilance.
Generally, the ‘s’ sound but also ‘ch’ ‘sh’ ‘z’. Creates a sense of nature. Emphasises the
sublimity of a landscape. Eliot uses it to carry the hissing wind and rain, unsettling. It
effectively removes the humanity from the scene.
___ _ Trochee
_ ___ Iamb
_ _ Pyrric
Synecdoche – highly developed and subjective fragment of urban desolation and isolation.
While there are smells of people and the existence of people, there are no people. Futility of
action and agency in the modern world of statis and inertia.
Heroic couplet, however, separation creates a break. Lighting of the lamps will awaken
desolate and broken world towards a better morning. The light is separated, it needs physical
space to exist. Or, light is the last thing the place needs. It is broken and damaged and light
will only draw attention to disaster. The lighting of lamps is the first action upon previous
inaction. Shining a light on the horror of modernity.
Isolation in Part II:
Morning is personified, deeply clinical understanding of the process. Routine of humans is
systematic. Thousands of people walking to get coffee then go to work. They live in isolation.
Part III:
Second person, creating audience complicity in his complaints. Past tense. Night is meant to
be a time of respite and rest, but no rest occurs. Night is, instead, a trial that must be endured.
Eliot develops both a male and female persona.
Intimate Disconnection:
He finally presents a human figure with intimacy but with a disconnection that the reader
cannot break through. The character cannot sleep. They think of every immoral or
dishonourable experience of their life. Passionless and made up of broken history. Humans
become the metaphorical sparrows. Meant for beauty and nature, but adapting instead to
the broken world, living their life in the gutter because it is easier.
Rhapsody on a Windy Night
A figure walks down the street at night alone. He feels overcome and jumbled in his memory.
The streetlamps come to life. The speaker realises that his perceptions are being distorted.
The moon is a sick old woman whose memory is gone. The speaker arrives home and goes to
sleep and wakes up to continue his normal life.
May refer to the windy night on which the poem’s obscure events are set. Also parodies the
titles of many Romantic poems which announce their status as a musical form, then the
subject, then state of mind.
Lack of Communication:
Poem replicates a complete lack of human interaction. The moon and the lamp are the only
speakers. The light in the darkness is imagined. The interactions with the speaker are not real.
The nightmare becomes that we are being told to see yet cannot.
Sense of hesitation. Fear that the subject will be turned into a possessed object by the objects
in the poem, thus losing any potential freedom and power he may have.
Twists its figures, not for the purpose of parody, but to provide a Modern perspective on how
its figures are produced. Created through both language and form. Start of Romantic poetry’s
becoming the uncanny, strange yet familiar, ghost within Eliot’s unromantic verses.
Allusion: Laforgue:
“Let us look there at Mademoiselle the moon / Let us bear no grudge (unlike her)”. Moon
symbolises madness. Eliot’s moon is blameless. But the moon does take on the previous
image of the prostitute, linking her behaviour, and the consequences of interacting with her,
to madness.
Allusion: The Woman in the Doorway:
Dante’s siren – Purgatorio. Like his siren, Eliot’s woman comes to life under the male gaze.
She becomes the prostitute because that is his desire.
Allusion: Bubu de Montparnasse:
Pierre falls in love with a prostitute, Berthe. Pierre finds himself overwhelmed by the
streetlamps. Pierre sees a beautiful woman and wishes she would acknowledge him, but she
does not. Pierre saves Berthe from Bubu, but Bubu is released from prison and reclaims
Berthe, leaving Pierre alone and in despair.
They can grow basically anywhere, and it takes a lot to kill them. In the poem, they are dead
meaning that humanity has also failed to survive.
The streetlamps mark out the paces to where he is going. The direction in which he is going
is deathly. At midnight, all his memories come back to defeat him. The second stanza’s woman
in the door is thought to be a prostitute (danger and distortion). In stanza three, the memory
shows, but his mind is twisted in the sense of distorted. In stanza four, the cat appears, an
image of desperation and survival. The moon is muddled in her memories of the night. There
is a link between her memories and the memories of the narrator. The short lines in stanza
five suggest the narrator is being closed in and has no escape. Memory has led him here,
betraying him in a way.
The Hollow Men (1925):
In 1921, Eliot had a nervous breakdown, he left his job, his marriage became troubled and he
was starting to search for a greater meaning to existence. Eliot would finally find faith in the
Anglican Church, but at this point, he is at a low, at conflict between his cynical Modernist
brain and his desire for spiritual fulfilment.
Exploration of death, meaning in life and the possibility of an afterlife. It centres on the
experiences of these hollow men, who have achieved nothing and committed no good and
no evil. These men are facing the prospect of life without an afterlife. A debate develops
between the two distinct voices of the persona: one who accepts that life ends with death
and the other who envies those with faith in an afterlife.
Part I:
Eliot establishes the condition of these hollow men, little more than scarecrows. They are
spiritually dead, paralysed by their lack of belief in an afterlife.
Part II:
Desire continues to dominate, knowing that this second life is becoming more removed from
Modernity. Hope is dismissed with the reassertion of their status and their inability to cross
over to ‘the twilight kingdom’.
Part III:
Eliot establishes a geography for the hollow man, a desert filled with “stone images” created
by men to recreate immortality. The religious voice rises again.
Part IV:
The voice of intellect reasserts the lack of hope. These hollow men come together to give
them some sense of connection. Hope still lingers.
Part V:
Triumph of intellect’s cynicism. For the persona, there is no hope of an afterlife. Eliot parodies
a children’s nursery rhyme before shifting into the call and response of a Catholic mass,
embedding intertextual elements. However, this eventually breaks into fragmented syntax.
The Allusive Title:
An amalgamation of William Morris’ “The Hollow Land” and Rudyard Kipling’s “The Broken
Men”. However, Eliot often reinvented allusions to shift meanings. Both are concerned with
desolation. Morris’ atmosphere and Kipling’s collective voice. Other suggestions for the title
come from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Search for God:
Eliot is charting his search for religion, which currently, he ultimately fails to do. Hope, and by
extension, God, finds its presence in the repeated motifs of eyes, stars and religious
iconography. Star = star of Bethlehem. Eyes = Beatrice’s eyes calling Dante to Heaven.
Multifoliate rose = metaphor for the saved souls. Sunlight = God’s touch.
Dissonant Poetic Voice:
There is one persona, but he speaks in two voices. The cynical Modernist voice is resigned to
the ultimate meaninglessness of life. However, the voice of religious desire continues to break
Part I – Who are the Hollow Men?
The hollow men are another echo of the archetypal Prufrock; modern man enfeebled by
Modernity, unable to make the smallest decision. They stand on the banks of the River Styx,
but they know that they will not pass to Heaven nor Hell as they have neither lived good or
bad lives. However, these men are not dead yet, their lives are simply ruled by Death.
Sibilance and the Epigraph:
The straw metaphorically transforms them into effigies. This builds on the epigraph “Penny
for the Old Guy”, a reference to the tradition of burning Guy Fawke’s effigies in England.
Condensed Lexical and Structural Repetition:
This poem consists of 420 words but only 180 different words. This condensed lexical
repetition can be seen to mimic the mumbling of these men and plays with the limitation
these men have in every aspect of their lives. Eliot also highlights this through the structural
repetition, not simply recreating phrases, but the echoing syntactic structures throughout.
Rhyme in Part II:
Rhyme and slant rhymes penetrates the cynicism of the Prufrockian voice that dominates.
Death’s Kingdom:
Life = death’s dream kingdom. Death = death’s other kingdom and twilight kingdom. Death
becomes the sovereign over all life. The lost kingdom could represent the earth or the hollow
men’s mental state. It could also mean that the people no longer have faith in God and
therefore their broken jaws no longer spread that faith.
Symbolism in Part III:
The idea of a universal search for an afterlife is developed. Symbolism of “stone images”
represents man’s attempts to replicate the divine on Earth. They exist beyond the limit of a
human’s lifespan. God’s presence is no longer felt in “death’s dream kingdom”.
Biblical Allusion in Part IV:
Ezekiel imagines himself in a valley filled with human bones, which slowly grows tendons and
reform into humans. The hope of rebirth experienced by Ezekiel is beyond the sightless men.
Heart of Darkness:
Marlow recounts the story of his travels up the Congo River. Marlow initially hikes and then
captains a steamer not the unexplored areas of the Congo. He is in search of the legendary
Kurtz. Marlow finds himself trapped amongst white men, living on the edge of the river,
seemingly carrying out meaningless activities. When they find Kurtz, Marlow discovers a sick
and disturbed man, living as a God and worshipped by a local tribe. Marlow is assured by a
Russian, who also worships Kurtz, that he is profound – that he understands the world as it
truly is. Kurtz is taken on the ship to recuperate further down the river at a medical base.
However, he is too far gone, and speaks to Marlow whispering, “The horror! The horror!” A
short while later, a ship’s boy announces, “Mistah Kurtz – he dead.” The main parallel
between Heart of Darkness and ‘The Hollow Men’ consists in the theme, implicit throughout
the latter, of debasement through the rejection of good, of despair through consequent guilt.
Destruction of European civilisation as a result of modernity. The hollow men stuck on the
edge of the “tumid river” become the company men Marlow encounters on the banks of the
Congo. These men make no decisions, achieve nothing.
Triumph of Cynicism in Part V:
Cynicism ultimately wins the debate. The cynical voice preaches the failure of the world and
the ultimate emptiness of actions to these men. The famous last lines of the poem echo the
triumph of the hollow men.
Nursery Rhyme:
When you read the poem for the first time, you do not recognise any of it but then you come
across the nursery rhyme and it sounds familiar but you cannot quite place where it is from
as it is subverted and so you continue to think and come back to the nursery rhyme as you
continue reading the poem, it lingers in your mind. Eliot subverts the traditional nursery
rhyme of the mulberry bush. The prickly pear reinforces the desert-like geography in which
the men are trapped. Builds on the degradation of Modernity. 5AM is the time attributed as
the time of Jesus’ resurrection, but these hollow men take no note. They have not opened
themselves up to revelation and continue to fill their time with meaningless tasks.
Call and Response:
Eliot satirises this form, ridiculing his own religious desire with his cynical voice providing a
sequence of pairs that are haunted by failure. These sequences are met with the allusive
response of the hollow congregation. It is no longer a clear address to God, but possibly a
recognition of power death holds over all aspects of life – conceding that we will always be
haunted by this knowledge. Ultimate distance between failed Modern man and this afterlife,
then we must see the kingdom lines addressed to death.
Fractured Syntax:
The realisation of the ultimate futility of hope for an afterlife affirmed through the
fragmentation of syntax. Kurtz’s lines come at the end of his life, the realisation of the failure
of his life, the bitter truth that he is left with.
Last Lines:
The bang represents the way that Fawkes and Kurtz planned to die, through their significant
impact on the world, yet they, like the hollow men, are left with pathetic whimpering.
Journey of the Magi (1927):
Who are the Magi?
The Three Wise Men. They travelled from the East following the Star of Bethlehem for the
birth of Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
An unidentified Magus reflects on the journey, the knowledge he has gained and the
destruction of his world of ancient pagan rituals. The journey falls into three parts – the
difficult travel, the temperate valley, and the reflection on the change that the world must
undertake. The first stanza is concerned with the difficulty of their journey. It also highlights
the hostility of this pre-Christian world. The second stanza sees a shift, as the Magi approach
Bethlehem. They are now surrounded by a world filled with religious imagery. The final stanza
shifts back to the present, with the Magus reflecting on how unsatisfying the world is now
that he has encountered Jesus. Now he can only look forward to death.
Lancelot Andrewes in Stanza 1:
He was the Bishop of Winchester and well regarded for his sermon style. Eliot adapts from his
sermon and uses his style to shape the whole stanza.
Paratactic Syntax:
Events are described one thing after another in short, simple sentences without subordinating
clauses. The persona’s voice becomes tired through this, as if bored with always recounting
these facts.
Religious Allusion in Stanza 2:
Creates a juxtaposing sense of relief from the desert and foreboding at the oncoming trials
for Jesus. Combination of so many disparate images taken from across the life of Jesus. The
meaning is lost on Eliot’s audience if they have not been initiated into the higher levels of
belief. They, like the Magi, will remain ignorant of the truth revealed through belief in the
incarnation of Christ.
The 3rd Stanza Shift:
Use of dramatic monologue. The reflection of the journey is over, and the Magus is forced to
confront the world he is now in. The incarnation of Christ has led to the slow death of his
previous world. He feels powerless in a world that he has outlived. He no longer finds comfort
in his previous beliefs and becomes eager for his own death, at which point he will be able to
embrace the afterlife and be close with God.
Birth or Death:
Divine and spiritual Birth and Death remain so different from the ordinary experiences of birth
and death experienced by the Magus. The capitalisation of Birth and Death at times sets these
out from the others, establishing that Eliot is talking about Jesus and setting them apart from
the everyday experiences of humans.
The Poem as an Extended Metaphor for Eliot’s Epiphany:
Eliot was baptised into the Anglican church in 1927. Later in life, his sister would tell a story
of when she travelled with him to Rome in 1926. She recalled looking around and seeing him
fallen on his knees in front of a painting of Jesus and Mary. Eliot considered converting to
Buddhism before settling on Anglicanism. They are religions of deliverance: man must die in
an unreal life before he can be born again into a real afterlife.
The Spiritual Desert – Stanza 1:
This desert is filled with reminders of his previous, pleasurable life. Yet it remains the hostile
world of Modernity. Initially, these two elements seem paradoxical, until we consider the
spiritual barrenness.
The Epiphany – Stanza 2:
As the magus discover the messiah in the “temperate valley”, Eliot had his religious epiphany.
His conversion into the Anglican faith reveals the mysteries of the Passion of Jesus, his final
days on Earth in the lead-up to his crucifixion. Eliot recognises the sacrifice made by Jesus as
fundamental to his understanding of the world.
Psalm 23 – Stanza 2:
It is possible to link this valley to the valley of the shadow of death in Psalm 23. This valley is
traditionally representative of life and the trials faced. Eliot’s concern that life is completely
owned by death, as well as his desire to enter the afterlife. This valley, which is filled with the
birth of Jesus and all the reminders of his death fits with Eliot’s own desire to be one with
Spiritual Rebirth – Stanza 3:
Eliot does not wish for death because he is suicidal, he wishes for death in a desire to be close
to his God. It is the same desire that was expressed frequently in ‘The Hollow Men’.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
“Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient
etherized upon a table;”
“In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.”
“The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,”
“And indeed there will be time”
“With a bald spot in the middle of my hair - / (They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’)”
“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
“When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,”
“Arms that are braceleted and white and bare”
“Almost, at times, the Fool.”
“I do not think that they will sing to me.”
“…’That is not what I meant at all.”
“To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’, and ‘Do I dare?’”
“And time yet for a hundred indecisions”
“And then the lighting of the lamps.”
“With the other masquerades / That time resumes,”
“Assured of certain certainties,”
“One thinks of all the hands / That are raising dingy shades”
“With smell of steaks in passageways.”
“You tossed the blanket from the bed”
“They flickered against the ceiling.”
Rhapsody on a Windy Night:
“Every street lamp that I pass / Beats like a fatalistic drum,”
“And you see the corner of her eye / Twists like a crooked pin.”
“I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.”
“Of sunless dry geraniums”
“Put you shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”
“Slips out its tongue / And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
“The street-lamp sputtered”
“As a madman shakes a dead geranium”
“A crowd of twisted things”
“The lamp said, / “Four o’clock””
The Hollow Men:
“We are the hollow men”
“As wind in dried grass”
“In death’s dream kingdom”
“Under the twinkle of a fading star”
“Lips that would kiss / Form prayers to broken stone.”
“This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms”
“Here we go round the prickly pear”
“Falls the Shadow”
“For Thine is the Kingdom”
“This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but with a whimper.”
Journey of the Magi:
“A hard time we had of it.”
“Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,”
“And three trees on the low sky,”
“Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,”
“Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,”
“I should be glad of another death.”
Prufrock - Synecdoche of the fog as a cat and women as body parts. Even the
metaphors disintegrate. Insect metaphor describes Prufrock’s insignificance as he is
just another specimen to be looked at. He believes he is useless. Continuous stream
of consciousness. Imperative forces Eliot into his own mind.
o “Let us go then, you and I”
Preludes - Thought process of someone brought on by self-reflection in the dark.
Everything is awful and nothing can be done due to the insignificance of the persona.
Night is meant to be a time of rest, but this does not occur, nothing is set in the world.
Newspapers. Pathetic fallacy and sibilance.
o “Thousand furnished rooms” – scale shows everyone desolated.
Rhapsody – Personification as the moon and the lamp are the only speakers. Enclosure
causes desolation from surroundings. Disfiguration from Romanticism desolates him
from society; unable to communicate.
Hollow Men – The title sets up for desolation. Structural repetition isolates him from
his environment. Motif of dryness. The prickly pear reinforces the desert-like
geography in which the men are trapped.
o “As wind in dry grass” “As the hollow men”
o “Our dried voices” “dry grass” “dry cellar”
o “Here we go round the prickly pear”
Journey – Juxtaposing sense of relief from the desert and foreboding the oncoming
trials for Jesus. The desert is filled with reminders of his previous, pleasurable life. Yet
it remains the hostile world of Modernity. The capitalisation of Birth and Death at
times sets these out from the others, establishing that they are set apart from the
everyday experiences of humans.
o “Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley”
o “Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,”
Hollow Men – Religious voice rises. Religious desire does not triumph. Eliot is charting
his search for religion. Religious iconography. Voice of religious desire continues to
break through. Death becomes sovereign over all life despite religious desire. Religious
o “Under the twinkle of a fading star.”
o “For Thine is the Kingdom”
o “Lips that would kiss/Form prayers to broken stone.”
Journey – Voice of religious desire makes poem hopeful. World filled with religious
imagery. Eliot has his religious epiphany. Religious imagery lost on the hollow men.
o “And three trees on the low sky,” – Luke 23:32-34 (three crosses)
o “Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,”
Prufrock - Indecision and inability to act. Prufrock stays in his room all day therefore,
he does not work, and he is nothing. He knows he is insignificant and would be mocked
by women
Preludes - Routine of humans is systematic. Though they work, they are stuck in a
never-ending routine. Therefore, they are insignificant and live in isolation
Modernity (rejection of the past):
Prufrock - Stripped men of power and nobility. The present no longer has the beauty
that past poets had. Dante’s epigraph, the Modern society is Hell and we are
insignificant beings who try to continue to live in it. Paralysing effects of Modernity
and the failures of it. Modernity has forced us into our own minds, unable to
o “…That is not what I meant at all.”
Preludes - Sibilance used for hissing sound of rain – removes humanity from the awful
world. Futility of action and agency in the modern world of stasis and inertia. Lighting
of the lamps shines light on the horror of modernity. Repetition of life makes it
meaningless. The world is awful, and nothing can be done.
o “Assured of certain certainties”
o “And then the lighting of the lamps.”
Rhapsody – Morning will bring forth the reality of Modernity within society. The poem
twists the figures of the child, cat, and woman to provide a Modern perspective.
o “Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”
o “Slips out its tongue / And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
Hollow Men – Conflict between cynical Modernist brain and his desire for spiritual
fulfilment. Second life becoming more removed from Modernity. Cynical Modernist
voice is resigned to the ultimate meaningless of life. Hollow men are modern man
enfeebled by Modernity. Nursery rhyme builds on the degradation of Modernity.
o “Here we go round the prickly pear”
o “There are no eyes here”
Journey – Spiritual desert remains the hostile world of Modernity (despite spiritual
o “And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly”
Deterioration of society:
Prufrock – sawdust hotels, insidious intent, one-night stands, the yellow fog that
makes the persona (and the audience) feel very choked up. Society’s decay coupled
with stuffy formal affairs. Dante’s Epigraph means the world is now Hell.
o “Let us go then, you and I”
Preludes – the decay of the world through the “newspapers from vacant lots;” “broken
blinds and chimney-pots” etc. The world is broken, its people are depressed and dirty.
The city is dirty and dull. Sibilance removes humanity from the scene.
o “The grimy scraps / Of withered leaves”
o “With smell of steaks in passageways”
Rhapsody – Disfiguration of society throughout the entire poem. The moon’s
memories are disintegrating, the geraniums connect her memories to the narrator.
o “As a madman shakes a dead geranium”
o “Of sunless dry geraniums”
o “A crowd of twisted things” – both physical (branch in next line) and
metaphorical twisted mind
Hollow Men – Hope is dismissed with the reassertion of their inability to cross over.
The actual poem is fragmented. Fragmentation of the two voices. Broken jaws can no
longer spread God’s faith. Fractured syntax.
o “The twilight kingdom”
o “This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms”
Journey – Disparate images taken from across the life of Jesus but meaning is lost. The
incarnation of Christ has led to the slow death of his previous world. He feels
powerless in a world he has outlived. Journey of the Magi is a fragmentation of the
other poems.
o “And three trees on the low sky”
The overall decay in the texts describes Eliot’s view of the consequences of Modernity,
bringing to light the ickiness of the world
Prufrock – both physical and mental, he is unable to act (both physically by being able
to get out of bed and mentally through his indecision). Repetition – “To wonder, ‘Do I
dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’”, the obsession with time and how it goes by and yet he is still
unable to act, “And indeed there will be time”. Persona is crippled by indecision. He
does not leave his room. He is trapped and put on display. Rhyme is inconsistent which
shows indecision.
o When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall”
o “And time yet for a hundred indecisions”
Preludes – the persona (and the rest of society) is trapped in the repetitiveness of
Modernity. Repetition – the poem repeats, our lives repeat, it is pointless, nihilism,
“Assured of certain certainties,”. You are brought into the poem, lying in bed and
having an epiphany about the unpleasant world. There is a disconnection the reader
cannot break through.
o “You tossed a blanket from the bed”
o “They flickered against the ceiling”
Rhapsody – The interactions with the speaker are not real. The narrator is trapped in
his memories.
o “The lamp said, / “Four o’clock,” – truncated sentences suggest entrapment
Prufrock – He does not leave his room to join the outside world, instead only
fantasises. He worries of the judgement he will face by women. Synecdoche, he does
not recognise the people, instead focusing on their physical features. Isolated from
interacting with society. Meter describes his anxiety.
o “(They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’)”
o “Arms that are braceleted and white and bare”
o “I do not think that they will sing to me.”
Preludes – Sibilance of rain causes cold and distant feelings between the persona and
the world. Repetitive nature of modern life. Lighting of the lamps shines a light on his
disjointed world. Everyone belongs to the morning. They do things in unison but live
isolated lives. Night is a trial that must be endured.
o “One thinks of all the hands / That are raising dingy shades”
Rhapsody – Lack of human interaction. Humans are dehumanised, objects are
personified. Typographical distancing.
o “I could see nothing in that child’s eye.”
o “The street-lamp sputtered”
Hollow Men – The straw metaphorically turns them into effigies. God’s presence is no
longer felt. The people no longer have faith in God and so God has left them. Death
becomes the sovereign over all life, so they are alienated in their lives.
o “A penny for the Old Guy” – tradition of burning Guy Fawke’s effigies
o “Death’s dream kingdom”
Journey – Alienated from life as they want to die to get closer to God. Meaning of
religious allusion is lost on Eliot’s audience if they have not been initiated into the
higher levels of belief. His life is owned by death.
o “Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”