How does Eliot use language and imagery to depict the neighborhood in "The Winter Evening Settles Down"?

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Eliot uses language and imagery that suggests the "burnt-out" and hurried end of a long day. The neighborhood setting is dilapidated and abandoned. Freshly devoid of people, it is lonely, empty, and deserted. Eliot's metaphors also add to the mood of the neighborhood, making readers feel its smoke and desolation.

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In "The Winter Evening Settles Down," T.S. Eliot uses careful word choice suggesting a once-busy neighborhood that is now falling asleep:

With the line "[...] smells of steaks in passageways," Eliot evokes the sense of a bustling place gone quiet in a hurry. There were people there so recently that you can still smell their lingering dinners haunting the passageways. The abandoned newspapers, too, suggest a very sudden exodus—a newspaper is current, immediate, up-to-date. For it to have been left, someone must have been there quite recently.

Throughout the poem, he also uses words that bring to mind something moving to the end of its life cycle. The line referencing "burnt-out ends of smoky days" suggests that the day is akin to a cigarette or cigar. It's been smoked all the way through now, and all that's left is a stub. Shortly thereafter, he mentions "withered leaves." While the day will start again in the morning, he's distinctively shifting toward a sense of finality in these lines. This imagery describes something deteriorating in a non-renewable way.

This perspective is reinforced when Eliot describes the rain hitting the "broken blinds and chimney-pots." This is the only line that concretely describes the condition of the neighborhood, rather than the feel. It's congruent with the feeling Eliot evokes through his imagery—dilapidated, deteriorating, and abandoned.

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This is the first section of a longer poem by T.S. Eliot: "Preludes." If you are familiar with another Eliot poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," you will find echoes of that here, particularly in the way the evening—and the neighborhood—are described. In "Preludes," as in Prufrock, the evening takes on a life of its own: we watch as it "settles" around the neighborhood.

Eliot's choice of descriptors makes clear that this is not a salubrious neighborhood. On the contrary, days in this neighborhood are "smoky" and "burnt-out," suggesting that it is down on its luck and worn thin. Even the leaves in this neighborhood, a natural phenomenon, are mere "grimy scraps," "withered" as if nothing green or vibrant is capable of living here. The word "shower" is repeated twice in this brief stanza, too, indicating that there is a sort of miserable, rainy atmosphere to the streets.

The image of newspapers rustling through the streets "from vacant lots" gives the impression, too, that the area is run down, its blinds "broken" and its houses abandoned. Note that this poem was written in 1910, and we can see also that it is not moving forward into the world of electrification and motor cars—instead, the lamps are manually lit, and we see a "lonely horse" stamping in the street. The horse, like the newspaper rustling and the withered leads, adds to the cumulative sense of emptiness and loneliness in the neighborhood Eliot describes, a place that has been deserted and left grimily quiet.

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In T.S. Eliot's "The Winter Evening Settles Down," Eliot describes a rather run-down, decrepit part of town.  He does so concisely and descriptively through imagery and word choices.  Imagery is when you use language to paint a picture using the five senses--taste, touch, sight, sound and smell.  There is quite a bit of imagery in Eliot's poem, and all of it helps the reader to feel like they are actually there, in the neighborhood that he describes, seeing and feeling what he does.  For example, we get smells:  "smell of steaks in passageways," and "burnt-out ends of smoky days."  These smells help us to picture a run-down part of town where meat and potatoes are common fare amongst a working class; there are fires lit to keep homes warm, and the smoke from the fires fogs the neighborhood and lends a musty smell to the area.  We get sights:  "grimy scraps of withered leaves," and "newspapers from vacant lots."  Notice how the leaves are grimy, and just scraps.  This helps us to understand that it is not the countryside, because the leaves are torn apart, not full and fresh, and, they are dirty from their long journey into town. So, it's a dirty, old, inner city where living, fresh things like leaves don't thrive.  Also, there are vacant lots; we get a sense of abandoned and demolished areas, homes that are so run-down that they are not livable.  So, imagery helps us to picture the decrepit part of town that he is describing.

Also take a look at key word choices.  The rain "beats" down on the city; this indicates a tired, brutal way of living, a merciless part of town where living is hard.  The blinds are "broken," which indicates a poor part of town, where upkeep is too expensive to undertake.  "Empty pots" indicates people who are too tired to remove and clean pots after the plants have died; they are exhausted and drained.  All of these descriptions seem to indicate the misery of a working life, the exhaustion and weariness of industrial living, and a very run-down and decrepit part of town.  Eliot, a modernist writer, often focused on the dreary nature of factory work and the industrial age, and this poem reflects that well.  I hope that helped; good luck.

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What kind of neighborhood has the poet chosen to describe in Eliot's poem beginning with the line, "The winter evening settles down"? How can one tell?  

"The winter evening settles down" is the first line of the poem called "Preludes" by T.S. Eliot. The poem describes a sordid, grimy, lower-class neighborhood in an industrialized city in the early twenthieth century.

In the first stanza, Eliot gives the impression of a dirty working-class neighborhood with its smells of food, "grimy scraps of withered leaves," newspapers in vacant lots, and broken window blinds. The second stanza reinforces the impressions of the first as it describes morning in the city. Eliot writes of the smell of beer, muddy streets sprinkled with sawdust, and people raising "dingy shades" in their "furnished rooms."

The third stanza introduces a specific character in the second person who is waking to a day in the city. This person hears sparrows singing in the gutters. Normally, hearing birds singing in the morning would be cheerful, but sparrows are common in cities, and here they sing in the gutters and not while sitting in foliage. The character referred to as "you" has "yellow soles" and "soiled hands," implying a hard working life. In the fourth stanza, the poet writes of a "blackened street" and an "infinitely suffering thing."

All these sensory impressions give us a picture of a dirty, desolate, depressing neighborhood in a big city.

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What kind of neighborhood has the poet chosen to describe in Eliot's poem beginning with the line, "The winter evening settles down"? How can one tell?  

Eliot is offering his view of modern civilization. Note the many ugly references to grim and emptiness:  "withered leaves," "grimy scraps," "broken blinds and chimney pots," "stale smells of beer," and "dingy shades." Setting the poem in winter, furthermore, suggests despair and loneliness despite the urban location. 

Following World War I, the world view of many poets like Eliot was that modern society was in a state of decline and decay. He has chosen to write about a city in such a condition with images of cigarettes, pollution, and beer to suggest urban squalor without any sense of hope.

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