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Discuss Eliot’s Treatment Of The Theme Of The Modern City In

1050 words - 4 pages

Discuss Eliot’s treatment of the theme of the modern city in
Preludes. Also refer to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock if you
wish.

In both ‘Preludes’ and ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, the
modern city is one of the main themes. Eliot’s fascination with the
modern city could stem from the fact that he was an American, and so
when he moved to England in 1915, the modern city was a part of
England of which he was in awe. Eliot was also influenced by the
French poet, Charles Baudelaire who explored the poetic possibilities
of “the more sordid aspects of the modern metropolis.” I believe that
this is what Eliot is doing in Preludes; I believe he is exploring the
poetic possibilities of the city.

In ‘Preludes’, Eliot begins the poem with “The winter evening settles
down / With smell of steaks in passageways / Six o’clock.” Here, Eliot
has personified the weather and made wide use of sibilance. By using
sibilance, he makes the “passageways” seem eerie and mysterious. Eliot
then continues with “The burnt-out ends of smoky days / And now a
gusty shower wraps.” These two lines suggest endings, as life is
firstly compared to a cigarette, where it burns away to nothing and
then the line “And now a gusty shower wraps” makes use of pathetic
fallacy, as the turbulent day in the city is over, just like the “gusty
shower” has finished. The last two lines of the stanza create the
impression of a city atmosphere which is dingy and dark; “And at the
corner of the street / A lonely cab horse steams and stamps.” The cab
horse could mirror people in the city, as many of them are lonely, and
“at the corner of the street” suggests isolation and dinginess mixed
with a familiar city image.

In the second stanza, Eliot writes “faint smells of beer / From the
sawdust-trampled street / With all its muddy feet that press / To
early coffee stands.” These four lines sound like a monotonous city
routine, where people go out at night and have to be at work the next
morning and so to cure their hangovers they go to coffee stands. This
is a typically English routine, where the “muddy feet that press” is a
pressing image. By using “sawdust-trampled feet” suggests cleaning as
sawdust is often used to soak up mess, and this mess in Eliot’s
writing could be the city’s sordid aspects.

Sordid aspects of city life are presented to us in the third stanza.
The stanza sticks out from the rest of the poem because it is so
different and shocking. This may have been Eliot’s intent; to shock
people and to enlighten them with images of what happens in cities
when people have gone home for the night. Eliot starts the stanza with
“You tossed a blanket from the bed / You lay upon your back, and
waited.” These two lines are of a sexual nature and we almost get the
impression that Eliot is talking about a prostitute. We must also
notice that this stanza is also written in the second person, which is
more personal than the other stanzas. In...

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