“Preludes” is a poem of loneliness and the impersonal nature of the city, the emptiness of urban life and the often grimy, squalid environment—both physical and mental—in which so many people must survive. The poem is framed so that the individuals mentioned in the poem could be any person, in any city, in any country; when the speaker speaks of “you,” that you could be anyone, including the reader. This vagueness underlines the universality of the general dreariness and isolation described in the work.
Because all the images in the poem are working toward this end, there are a good many things that are broken. The evenings themselves are broken in I, described as “the burnt-out ends of smoky days.” Eliot also mentions “scraps of withered leaves” and “broken blinds and chimney-pots.” In Part III, the very soul of the individual in the bed is fractured—we have mention of “the thousand sordid images / of which your soul was constituted.” There is no uniformity here; instead that soul is a mosaic, constructed out of sharp edges and pieced together as well as it could be. And in IV, we have “the notion of some infinitely gentle / infinitely suffering thing.” Here we could say that this thing itself is broken on an emotional level, suffering so fully and so perpetually.
Also in IV, we have another soul—“His soul,” which could be referring to the “you” in III or could be referring to a new individual, we have no way of knowing—which is “trampled by insistent feet / At four and five and six o’clock.” A soul that is folded into the very soul of the city, one with the streets, suffering along with the pavement as the relentless, uncaring, pulverizing population goes about its lonely, hurried business.