T. S. Eliot

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The representation of modern society in T. S. Eliot's poetry: The poetry of T. S. Eliot presents us with a portrait of the modern world, which is full of despair and isolation. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

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I agree that T. S. Eliot's poetry presents a modern world that is full of darkness and despair. Many of his works describe everyday situations through the lens of misery. One example of this is in the first section of "Little Gidding":

It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning . . .

Here, Eliot describes the view along a road during different seasons. The scene in winter is dark and cold, but he makes no distinction between this setting in winter and in spring. The movement from winter to spring is usually portrayed as a joyous time of life and rebirth, but Eliot disregards this and continues to describe a world that is filled with despair.

Another example comes from the poem "Morning at the Window":

And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.

Again, Eliot describes a daily scene from the world around him in a negative manner. Here, Eliot shows the isolation felt in the modern world. The housemaids feel no satisfaction; they simply come and go from their positions because it is what they are supposed to do. Eliot also feels no belonging in this world he sees moving around him; through his poems, he shows his own sense of isolation.

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I agree with this statement for the most part because many of T.S. Eliot's poems do portray modern society in this way (full of despair and isolation). One example is the poem "The Wasteland", especially in the line in Section 1 entitled The Burial of the Dead:

     A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

     I had not thought death had undone so many.

In addition, his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" alludes to isolation and despair in life with the line:

     And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

     Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...

A great example of isolation in the modern world is the poem "The Hollow Men", which highlights mans search for meaning in life and his regressing into an unfeeling and numb state as he/she tries to grasp with the realities of living in a morally bankrupt society used to pain, death, tragedy, war, and more. T.S. Eliot's poem "Preludes" is another example of verse that highlights the fact that life can at times be dreary and unsatisfying as he talks of the "night revealing the thousand sordid images."

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