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Death, Water, And T.S. Eliot Essay

1193 words - 5 pages

Death, Water, and T.S. EliotT.S. Eliot is one of the leading poets in regards to symbolism. Water, one of his most common symbols is found in both "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Hippopotamus." At the end of "The Love Song" the narrator goes to the "sea" and "human voices" cause man to "drown." This poem associates water with Earth and death. However, in "The Hippopotamus," the hippo is "washed" and cleansed by water. This poem mocks the use of water to symbolize redemption and forgiveness. These are conflicting views that Eliot must have struggled with before his conversion to Christianity. Eliot also has reoccurring subjects throughout his texts. Death is found in both of these poems as well. T.S. Eliot fears death in "The Love Song;" he sees it as disintegration and the decomposition of the human body. But, in "The Hippopotamus" Eliot praises death as the hippo's way of "be[ing] washed as white as snow," but criticizes the death of the church by being abandoned on Earth. These poems were both written before Eliot became a Christian, "The Love Song" before "The Hippopotamus." It is obvious in this latter poem that Eliot is sarcastic towards the view of life after death associated with Christianity. He is mocking the church and assuming it to false in its teaching and worthy of nothing more than being caught in the "miasmal mist" here on Earth.Water, most commonly symbolizes renewal or redemption. It is meant as cleansing the body and soul or filth. People wash with water to get clean, same as they wash their souls to regain purity. Eliot uses water in a different sense. In "The Love Song," the character talks of the sea in the last two and a half stanzas. Mostly in his last two stanzas is where the significance exists:I have seen them riding seaward on the wavesCombing the white hair of the waves blown backWhen the wind blows the water white and black.We have lingered in the chambers of the seaBy sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brownTill human voices wake us, and we drown.Previously Eliot talks of walking on the beach and seeing the mermaids. Yet, in his second to last line, he calls them "sea-girls." They are not maidens, known for their beauty and charm, but sirens that tempt man into failure. They are "wreathed with seaweed red and brown;" these colors signify lust and despair. Red is the color of blood and passion: lust. Brown in the color of dirt and spoiled things: disparity. The sirens hypnotize man through life, not allowing him to emotionally understand what he does, or how his actions affect people, but rather to keep on acting as he is, with no regards to other's or his own emotions. Once humanity sets in, man is woken from his trance and realizes how corrupted he really is, and how pointless life has become. There is no real reason to live once the trance of the sirens, which gave man false happiness, has ended. This causes his heart (and what is left or his soul) to break, ending in death. Humanity will kill...

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