Four Quartets

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Four Quartets represents the culmination of Eliot’s career as both a modernist and a Christian poet; he completes the spiritual quest that has been apparent in his work since his first published poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The conclusion of this quest is in what Eliot calls “the timeless moment,” those points in life where the eternal and the temporal intersect, making meaning possible in an otherwise trivial world.

Eliot explores these timeless moments in four specific settings that have significance in his own life, three in England and one in New England. Among the themes common to the quartets is the need for escape from the tyranny of self and from the emptiness of a distracted and distracting world. Another, explored in the same section of each quartet, is the questionable ability of language, specifically poetry, to serve as a vehicle for meaning.

Eliot finds ultimate meaning in an emptying of self that makes possible recognition of a truer self in union with God, “the still point of the turning world.” He seeks this union in the concreteness of his own life, realizing at last the optimism at the heart of faith--that, despite appearances, “All shall be well.”

This work typifies Eliot’s later style--it is more personal, symbolist, and philosophical than the poems that made him famous. It shows an Eliot who, while still struggling, has reached a new level of peace and acceptance....

(The entire section is 542 words.)