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T.S. Eliot was an intellectual of the modernist movement of the 20th century. In the 20th century, there was the invention of the machines, so now with the invention of new machines; factories started to opaque other commerce which were not industries. Now the world was facing a growing problem: mass production. With mass production, industries started to come up. This is the result of an economic phenomenon called industrialization. Because of industrialization, there were not enough jobs in the rural area, which obliged workers to move into the cities.
This problem is called urbanization. Due to the urbanization, workers had to labour under terrible conditions; industries exploited their workers asking them to work for long hours and with low salaries because there was too much demand for work, and not enough on offer.
This kind of thought is what modernists, such as T.S.Eliot criticized: This unjust, inhuman way of living, a life where everything is done practically automatically.
Where there is no fantasy, no adventure, or pleasure. A place where people have lost their beliefs causing desperation and frustration, giving rise to false prophets and false hopes. A place where there are so many, that they are mingled in a “sea of people”. A place where there’s no time for inter and intrapersonal relations. We can see this kind of though inflicted in Eliots poetry for example, when he says, “Stetson! You who were with me in the ships in Mylae! That corpse you planted last year in you graden”
With that repetition of unreal city in The Wasteland, in The Burial of the Dead, The Fire sermon and naming ancient cities in What the Thunder Said; “Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London unreal” we can see no separations amongst cities.
This shows that all cities are alike, almost inconsequential, as part of the same phrase. The same happens with people living within the cities; people become the same, alike, with no distinction or separation, we can see this point proved when we see that there is no separation (commas) between cities and that the hubbub is so loud and horrid that is accompanied with nasty images such as “murmur of maternal lamentation”, stumbling in ckraked earth” al these images referring to people or the “mub” walking down the streat. We can appreciate Eliot’s discontent with the city, when in Preludes, it says, from the “sawdust-trampled street with its muddy feet that press to early coffee stands” or in the burial of the dead, “flowed up the hill and down William Street”, he uses words like flow, mass, crowd when he refers to people, showing that individuality is lost. “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many”
This is like if city life had took their life away, or their souls, as in hollow men, where “the eyes are not here”, eyes throughout literature have always been a symbol for a mirror into the soul; so people in the cities are dead, have no souls. It is relationships the way to show what the mob or mass alienation is doing to the society: becomes more distorted, and decadent. It is in the city, where people are so alienated, that people flow like a river, and suddenly someone recognizes someone who stands out of the crowd, and start talking about the adventures they lived once. “Stetson! You who were with me in the ships in Mylae! That corpse you planted last year in you garden” this shows a devastating dehumanization, in which new life is born out of the death. We also see this, in “lilacs out of the dead land”. With these nasty images we are abviously shown that when people amass in a place (the city) people look like a flow, whose sounds of “conversations” sound like “murmur of maternal lamentation”, which is a metaphor for something that sound horrifying and really loud; “what is the sound high in the air, of endless plains (which sounds like pains)”, meaning that living in the city not just alienates people in such matter that they are like a flow of people, but their conversations sound like horrifying screams.
Due to this city imprisonment, we can find alienation. We can see alienation even in how the poems are written. For example, there are broken paragraphs, or sudden change of language, showing a change of scenery and no relation one verse to another, representing society within the city, they are in the same context, but they are so far away, so distanced that is like if they spoke another language, like Babel’s tower, where everybody speaks a different language, and it’s just chaos. The burial of the dead in lines 30-34, “fear in handful dust frisch weht der Wind” it is a completely different language than the one that has been used. And it changes theme completely, within the same stanza, and starts talking about a girl’s first love. In which she was in oblivion, “I was neither living nor dead” (mixing memory and desire).
This alienation leads to broken relationships. Whose breaking leads to a corruption or decadence. He gives us that impression as he uses vocabulary which creates a distorted image, for example, in Sweeny Erect, “The epileptic on the bed curves backward, clutching at her sides.” describing a woman having an orgasm. “A washed- smallpox cracks her face”, describing a prostitute. “White bodies naked on the damp ground” describing a couple having sex. Then he uses phrases which show us that relationships are corrupted, where couples don’t perform the act of making love, but it is mere satisfaction and lust “mixing memory and desire”. As in the fire sermon, where there is “a small agent’s clerk” who arrives his house to have sex to his wife, and her willingness is described “if undesired” “and makes a welcome of indifference”, and after they finished they both end up alone, and she says: “well now that’s done; I’m glad it’s over” this shows a true decay amongst human relationships because there is no longer that urge to be with someone because of love, or because you need to, it is just because it is a habit, something you have to deal with. We can also see this distortion, when Marie is remembering about her first love. “you gave me hyacinths first a year ago (…) oed’ und leer das meer” showing that Marie is mixing memory and desire, because it is her memory, which shades into loneliness (because of the change of language, showing alienation).
We are not just presented relationships when having intercourse, but amongst each other. As part of these relationship breakdown, there is a true decay amongst human relationships, because relationships now are just there to satisfy “desire”, and there is just “fucking” because it is not in even on procreation intempt, because if a woman is pregnant they go and have an abortion. It is all because of the city imprisonment that people abort because there’s no time for large families, as it used to be; “he had five already, and nearly died of young George” this shows an emphasis in how life is born out of death. To see A further representation of the distortion of families, we see different types of relationships which are presented as contrasts to what is going now in the modern days, where there used to be a proudness towards family “musing upon the king my brother’s wreck and the king, my father’s death before him”, where he uses Shakespearean elevated language as a representation of old families. In a game of chess, we see a high class married couple having a conversation, in which they don’t communicate, they just talk, as if they were talking to themselves, because she is a neurotic, who wants to know hat her husband thinks, does, etc. and the husband is really evasive, and answers as if he was not in presence of his wife; “I think we’re in rat’s alley where dead men lost their bones.-do you remember?”
And then in the same poem, we see in a pub, a low class conversation between two women, where one of them had had an abortion, “It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.” And then they say, “What you get married for if you don’t want any children?” this is a demonstration of how distorted, “lonely” and hopeless are relationships, of any class, they are distanced and broken.
Because of this alienation, and distortion of relationships, we are given as a result a corruption in human society, where the values are now decadent. We see also examples of false pretensions, and hypocrisy, for example, in a game of chess, the synthetic perfume (line 87), or the fixed teeth of the woman in the game of chess in order that her husband returns to her.
He also mentions, “with the other masquerades that time resumes”, problem that is presented in many of his poems, for example in the wasteland, where he says, “Hypocrite lecteur!mon semblable, mon frï¿½re.”, meaning that the reader is a hypocrite, because should be his relative, and should share his same thoughts, but because are members of the society are betraying him. Or when he says, “I’m not Russian, I’m from Limania, a true German” meaning that a person declares that is a true patriot, but is in fact a traitor. Because of this confusion on who betrays who as Eliot says “one must be so careful these days”, people feel lonely and individuals feel displaced and desperate and are guided by false prophets, like Madame Sosostris because people need to believe in something, even if it is in someone who sell lies.
T.S. Eliot uses several methods in order to make the reader see that our life is banal. Or at least that he is worried about time, because his life has been filled with empty worries, empty talks, and empty friends. As a proof of this, then he says, “For I have known them all already. I know them all I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” For example, at the beginning of the wasteland, we are reminded the story of sibyl, a woman, who was granted immortality by Apollo, but she forgot to ask for eternal youth as well, so what happened is that she became older and older, and could never die, with time, she knew everything that was to be known, and it was a waste. So, what the epilogue says is: “when the boys asked her “what do you want?” she answered, “I want to die”. In Eliot’s poetry, we see time as a constant preoccupation.
In a game of chess “hurry up please its time”, and we can see it also in the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock” repeats several times “and indeed there will be time” and he repeats many times time and from lines 23 to line 34, he says what he still has time for. We can see also, that this part has a very difficult rhyme (using a b c a b b d b e f f f e). But then he curbs, saying “in the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo” and in that line on, we see a different rhyme, and different introspection; now he is thinking in what society women are going to say when he gets in the room. “They will say: how his hair is growing thin”, and this rhyme is really simple, (a a a b b b c c c c b d a d).
Because our life has been so tedious, long, exhaustive and suffering, our death will be like the sibyl, not sudden and peaceful, but long, and with the constant willingness of death that is why he says “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.” And we see this not only in the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock. In hollow men he says, after “sightless, unless the eyes reappear as the perpetual star multifoliate rose of death’s twilight kingdom the hope only of empty men”, then from lines 68- 71, there is absurdity, showing that the people are not concerned in searching for theirselves… their soles, they are concerned in stupid, mundane, absurd things, so absurd that sound like childish songs” here we go round the prickly pear”.
There is also the presence of hope, “Road may take to some places. But doesn’t because there’s no water, no hope”, which could mean that there is no fertility, because water is life, and there is no life, because everything that is born, is born out of the death. There is hope that individuality won’t be lost in the mob; “let us go, through certain half-deserted streets.” And using nice-imagery vocabulary show us that there could be hope for remembering and recovering what was once a nice image, “And seeking that it was a soft October night”. “There could be hope, but there’s not…” “The fading star is in this valley of dying stars”. This means that there could be hope, but there is not. The only hope we have is a fading star, which lives where all the dying stars are in the desert, where all the wastes are.
Throughout T.S. Eliot’s poems, we can see that the city alienates the people, and therefore their relationships. They become distant, monotonous, and this lead people to feel trapped and desperate, so they start believing in false prophets, and start do false things, like keeping pretences, and start to look like hypocrites. But there could be hope, but there is not, because human beings can not separate from their pretenses and appearances. This leads to an exhaustive worry of death. Because it is terrifying to see your life, and realize that you’ve done nothing that it’s all been wasted in small talk, and then you realize that “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”.
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