T.S. Eliots Use Of Poetic Techniques In The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock And The Wasteland

1306 words - 5 pages

T.S Eliot, widely considered to be one of the fathers of modern poetry, has written many great poems. Among the most well known of these are “The Waste Land, and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, which share similar messages, but are also quite different. In both poems, Eliot uses various poetic techniques to convey themes of repression, alienation, and a general breakdown in western society. Some of the best techniques to examine are ones such as theme, structure, imagery and language, which all figure prominently in his poetry. These techniques in particular are used by Eliot to both enhance and support the purpose of his poems.

The theme of Prufrock is the negative, individuality repressing effect that society has on its people. The Prufrock persona illustrates this, he is alienated by the inane social rituals that define his life, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” and make it insignificant and useless. The Waste Land’s theme is that the world, in particular western civilisation, is a culturally and spiritually barren place. Society is portrayed as a pile of “…stony rubbish…”, the ruins of a once great city now reduced to rubble where nothing can grow. Lives mean nothing, but the poem also offers hope through a return to basic religious values, ending with the repeated chant of “Shantih shantih shantih”, which means, “the peace which passeth understanding”. The poems both portray the same basic idea, but they have two main differences. Firstly, there is the way in which the themes are expressed. In Prufrock , Eliot uses a persona as an example of the debilitating effect of living with so many expectations, rules, standards and meaningless rituals has on a the individual. In many ways, this is a very effective, because it gives the reader insight on a more personal level, there is a specific focal point. In contrast, the theme of The Waste Land is applied to the whole of society, rather than just to a single person or situation. For different reasons, this is also quite effective, the jumbled, unstructured nature of the poem only adding to the sense of cultural breakdown that pervades throughout the whole poem. The second discrepancy is that Prufrock does not really state a position, it neither gives hope nor prophecies doom. The Waste Land, on the other hand, whilst portraying the world as desolate and meaningless, offers hope of redemption through returning to more traditional values and beliefs.

The general layout and physical structure of Eliot’s poems is much more meaningful and complex than one would originally assume. In Prufrock, the structure is comparatively regular. The stanzas all conform to a general size and shape. In The Waste Land, there is no regularity, the poem is very fragmented and has several different speakers. Although these are very different, they do work in quite a similar way to support the theme. In Prufrock, the regularity is a metaphor for the way that the persona is restricted, forced...

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