T.S. Eliot: Preludes - Quotes and Analysis

Welcome back to the CLEAR Education blog. Today's blog focuses on some of the more obscure poems of T.S Eliot as part of Module B; such as Preludes (written in 1910)

Preludes was written during the evolution of Modernism, amidst an interwar period distinct in its instability and magnified by the excessive gentility of Victorianism. In this way, it is a poem which exposes a vexation with modern Victorianism; critiquing its fixation with decorousness and artificiality. Eliot critiques the ability for this form of Victorianism to fuel man's angsty and uncertain existence.

In-keeping with this contextual concern, Eliot formulates a modern Victorian setting in Preludes which epitomises the effect of the urban underbelly upon man's anxiety and fear.

Examples / Techniques / Analysis:
Here are some pieces of evidence which exemplify Eliot's critique of Victorian urbanity and its fostering of man's fearful and uncertain existence.

- Eliot uses continual synaesthesia ”the smell of steak”, “smoky days”, “gusty shower”  to layer his receptive imagery and thus encapsulate the sensory decay and disenchantment of the populated urban climate.

- In extension of this, Eliot’s sentiment, “His soul stretched tight across the skies that fade behind the city block” creates a metaphorical image which strains the symbolic human conscience by displacing it behind the enormity of the cityscape. This reflects the ability of the modern environment to perturb and unsettle man's daily human existence.

- Furthermore, Eliot’s quote, “You had such a vision of the street/as the street hardly understands” employs personification to give agency to the destitute streetscape, therefore emphasising the patent lack of symbiosis evident between man and the modern city. Herein, Eliot further enhances man's unrequited and uncertain dwelling within the urban landscape.

Critical Quotes and Ideas
Many literary scholars have echoed the aforementioned concepts regarding Victorianism and its enhancement of man's uncertainty and anxiety. For example, Robert Kaplan argues that it was the "pseudo-gentility of Victorianism" which foster Prufrock's neurosis.

*Please note that while this information is a great starting point for these texts, relying solely on the information in this post will not be enough to get a result in the top bands.


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