How do the images used by Eliot relate to the larger political realities of the period?Literary Renaissance: 1910-1930

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Eliot's poetry focuses on developing a picture of contemporary life in Britain that paints a somewhat bleak picture of man and life. Key themes in his work are the alienation and loneliness of the Modern man, and this is particularly true of both The Waste Land and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." In the former, for example, Eliot presents the reader with a montage of voices and characters that build up a picture of London in the Modern period. Note the following example:

—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Yours arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

The female speaker in this quote remembers a high point in her life when an admirer sent her hyacinths. In spite of the importance of this event, the speaker remembers that she was not able to experience any emotion. She was "neither / living nor dead, and I knew nothing..." Living in the "unreal world" of London that Eliot vividly describes seems to involve feeling profoundly isolated and at ill-ease with oneself and one's emotions. In the same way, in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the speaker is so insecure that he spends his time focuing on a "hundred indecisions" and a "hundred visions and revisions" of what he might do, always convincing himslef that "there will be time" to decide what he might do. In both texts, the larger political realities of the reality of the aftermath of the First World War and other events have had a massive impact on the people trying to live in such uncertain times, and this is expressed through the images of profound isolation and alienation that they experience.

Read the study guide:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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