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Preludes (1917) is an early poem of Eliot that deals with the characteristic Modernist trope of urban absurdity, monotony and squalor. The poem is divided into 4 parts and in a 'montage'-like fashion, creates an associative framework of images that describe a banal urban life, disconnected, solitary and full of alienation and meaninglessness.
The first part sets the tone in minutely describing a winter evening in the city--from the smells of meat to the grimy scraps to the abrupt rain or the lonely cab-horse--pervasive in this landscape is a sense of drabness--a lack of transcendence. The style is impressionistic, imagistic and the vein is symbolic. The poem addresses a 'you' --an object in all this.
The 2nd part moves ahead in time to the morning, continuing the prevalent drabness. the raising of dingy shades in numerous rooms of the city or moving towards the coffee shop in the morning--all connote routine action that is rather trivial and devoid of signification. the images towards the end are rather abstract here. urban life is seen as a daily carnival of masking the self.
The 3rd part concretizes the 'you' somewhat, as a woman, as a prostitute perhaps. Whatever be the gender, he/she stands for this dead world with all its sordid images. The space becomes domestic, a bed-room. The individual projects his/her inner gloom upon the outer world, which is intrinsically gloomy to begin with. Towards the end of this part, the 'vision' which the 'you' has is no epiphany; rather a vision of incomprehension that leads to a split between an object (the street) and its idea. This is no real knowledge but an attack on the epistemic value of this sordid life.
In the 4th and final part the 'you' is further alienated into the third person 'he' and this self seems to have internalized this absurd world of disconnection. There are images of victimization in the 'trampling' process. The conscience of a blackened street trying to assume the proportion of a world is an inductive image where the drabness of the city is seen as a universal marker. There is a touch of a Christian relief in the image of an infinitely gentle and infinitely suffering thing but the image is evoked only to be unmade. Its salvational import is neutralized in the final image of old women trying to gather fuel in vacant lots. This is a somewhat absurd image that unveils the revolution of the world as a futile process, marked with the paradox of trying to make something from where there is nothing.
Preludes is a pretty name for the poem written by T.S. Eliot - it suggests music, and also the presage of an event, usually something exciting or something to look forward to. It's written in free verse,a style that fives the poet lots of freedom, and is a lyrical poem. Each section of the free verse poem was written at different times of Eliot's life during his student days at Harvard and in Europe - (13,10,15,16 line segments.) Look for the imagery that belies it's pretty title however - some of it foreshadows the barreness of his later masterpiece 'The Wasteland.' The title also suggests questions,or preludes, that the piece never answers. Note down the ways in which the poem moves from evening to morning. Look also for images that suggest the poet's discussion of modern urban life and the monotony and emptiness this sometimes brings. Look for the themes of dreariness, isolation and depersonalization too - and write about the ways these themes seem to be particularly suited to depiction through a 'city poem.'
Preludes by Elliot is a series of images to portray the dark and dreary state of a machinated city life.There is vivid imagery,and foolproof messages.Elliot does not approve of the 'cogs-in-the-machine' way of life.There is a sudden change of atmosphere in the first stanza when he writes ;and then,the lighting of the lamps...' People are portrayed as just going through the motions,not really enjoying or looking forward to life.There is no light at the end of the tunnel.It is a melancholic poem,one that evokes sadness.
the woman in stanza three of this poem is a prostitute
" clasped the yellow soles of feet in the palms of both soiled hands " could suggest that she has been walking the streets. Im pretty sure that in stanza one he is waiting for her to come out which could be implied by " and then the lighting of the lamps ". If you read the poem over a few times and think about it, it makes sense. There is a word, a poetic technique, its for when the whole poem seems like it is one thing but it is infact different. maybe you learnt this too, i cant remember what it is called. But you would know if you read the poem falling asleep in snow - Michael Dransfield, which is actually about him taking drugs.
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