How are time and place used in Eliot’s poetry to shape the reader's intellectual and emotional response?
I would personally agree that time and place are used in Eliot's poetry to shape the reader's intellectual and emotional response. In "Love Song," Prufrock, the narrator, is a failed person (Ezra Pound, the original champion of this poem, called Prufrock "a portrait of failure" in his letter of January 31, 1915 to Harriet Monroe) who is obsessed with time. This concern first appears ironically: Prufrock insists that "there will be time, there will be time ... to murder and create," but in fact, the poem shows that Prufrock does nothing but fritter away his time, caught in mental paralysis that allows him to do nothing significant. He is conscious of this, bored and world weary, yet seems helpless to prevent time from slipping out of his grasp into indecision and repetition: "time yet for a hundred indecisions ... and revisions. ... In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions a minute will reverse." Time cycles through repetitively, yet goes nowhere: over and over we hear the refrain that "the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo."
Place also shapes the reader's response to this poem. Prufrock occupies drawing rooms where he spends--or wastes-- time socializing. These places underscore the triviality of Prufrock's situation. He measures out his life in coffee spoons, amid marmalade, tea and porcelain, imagining himself descending stairs in his morning coat as people comment on him in inane ways: "how his arms and legs are thin." Meanwhile, the scene outside is both disquieting and numbing. The evening spreads out "like a patient etherized upon a table," while a yellow fog "curled about the house and fell asleep." The settings reinforce the mental numbness of the narrator and convey to the reader the narrator's emotional ennui. Intellectually, watching Prufrock fritter his time in frivolous settings might encourage a reader to examine his own life and determine not to do the same.
A second Eliot poem that shows obsession with time is "Burnt Norton" in Four Quartets. Here Eliot explores the nature of time present, time past and time future, using place imagery to reinforce the message: the narrator envisions a passageway not gone down and a door to a rose garden not opened. He wonders if he should disturb the stasis of the present, wondering what the purpose is of disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose leaves. The poem works to inspire the reader both to think intellectually about time and to feel a sense of stasis.