Comment on the language of T S Eliot in terms of language use and creating pattern.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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T.S. Eliot was innovative in his use of language and developed unique methods for evoking emotion in the reader. Three examples are negative words that belie a cheery tone; classical and other allusions in incongruous places; variations in the metrical pattern that elicit change in mood.

As an example of the first is from the beginning of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," which opens with a cheery tone on the part of the speaker based on an invitation to accompany him: "Let' us^ / go' then^ / you' and^ / I'...." The rhythm of trochaic (/ ^) tetrameter (four feet) in the opening line enforces the cheerful tone. But Line 3 introduces discordant negatives in the vocabulary that contradict the cheerfulness. In the excerpt following, the cheerful vocabulary is in italics and the negative vocabulary is in bold.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;    
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,    
The muttering retreats

The second point is illustrated by the second stanza comprising Lines 13 and 14 of the same poem. There is an eerie disconnect between the perpetual motion of women coming and going to and from no apparent location for no apparent purpose and one's expectation of reality. The disconnection from reality is heightened by the fact of their seemingly random "Talking of Michelangelo."

In the room the women come and go    
Talking of Michelangelo.

The third point is illustrated in Lines 10 through 17 of the same. There are three mood changes in the passage and three major meter changes from iambic (^ /), with a trochaic tag (/ ^), to anapestic (^ ^ /) and back to iambic.

The excerpt begins in six feet of iambs followed by a tag of four feet of trochee (iambic hexameter and trochaic tetrameter, respectively). The meter changes at Lines 13 and 14 to two lines of an uncertain three feet of anapest (^ ^ /), or anapestic trimeter, that accords with the anapestic name of Michelangelo (Mi^chel^an'/ge ^lo^).

After that follow seven feet of iambs (^ /), or iambic heptameter, at Lines 15 and 16. With each rhythmic change, the poem's mood changes.

To lead you to an overwhelming question …            10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”    
Let us go and make our visit.    

In the room the women come and go    
Talking of Michelangelo.    

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,            15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

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