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T.s. Eliot’s and Its Stylistic Reception

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  • Pages: 8
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  • Category: Life

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It is no secret that there are many problems in our society, as there was in T.S. Eliot’s time. These problems, such as poverty, sadness, death and the expectations of society. are what inspired the writing of T.S. Eliot, and what causes his writing to be so intriguing. His stylistic technique is more of a pessimistic outlook on the real world. He also tends to use multiple pieces of figurative language and poetic devices in his work, and both of these things have an effect which influences the reader to think about all of the problems in the modern world. You can see examples of this in Eliot’s three poems, “Morning at the Window”, “The Burial of the Dead”, and “Cousin Nancy”.

The poem “Morning at the Window” was first published in 1916, at the beginning of WWI. An unnamed narrator is looking out a window and observing the people he sees from a distance. The reader is led to believe that this poem takes place in a modern city, possibly London, as that was where T.S. Eliot was from. In the middle of the poem, Eliot states, “The brown waves of fog toss up to me Twisted faces from the bottom of the street, And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts…”.

These lines demonstrate how the narrator notices that streets are filled with pollution and how people look to be filthy and sad. There does not seem to be any cheerfulness or positivity in this town. Finally, someone tries to spread some positivity, with, “An aimless smile that hovers in the air And vanishes along the level of the roofs.” As the reader can see, this attempt fails as the city is too far riddled with sadness. In addition, alliteration is just one of the poetic devices that Eliot uses in this particular poem. Some examples that the reader can clearly see is ‘am’ and ‘aware’, ‘breakfast’ and ‘basements’, and ‘souls’ and ‘sprouting’. There is also an onomatopoeia present when Eliot uses the word ‘rattling’. The reader could spot figurative language, including a metaphor comparing the working class and “housemaids”. These examples are evidence of the fact that the author commonly uses the themes of sadness and despair, and they help the reader grasp a better understanding of what is happening in the poem.

The next poem, titled “The Burial of the Dead”, is the first part of a larger poem called The Wasteland. At the beginning of The Wasteland, it contains an excerpt in Greek and Latin. The excerpt can be translated as, “For once I saw with my own eyes the Cumean Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her, ‘Sibyl, what do you want?’ she answered, ‘I want to die.”’ This excerpt creates an overall depressing tone for the reader before the poem has even started. The “The Burial of the Dead” contains 4 different stanzas, each with a different narrator. The first stanza starts with the same tone as the excerpt, as the narrator is talking about death and the land being like a “wasteland”. Eliot states, “April is the cruellest month, breeding  Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.” As the reader can depict, the start of the poem is talking about death and then starts to narrow down onto a woman who is recalling certain memories from her childhood, such as sledding with a family member or drinking coffee in the Hofgarten, which is German for court garden. The memories of the women cause the tone to fade from darkness and death to warmth.

The next stanza is from the viewpoint of a man, searching for any signs of life. Eliot states, “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,…”. These lines communicate to the reader that the attempt to find life fails. Also, in these lines there is a clear reference to the Bible, which could mean the narrator is speaking to a higher power about the problems he is facing. The third stanza takes the reader into the presence of a “Madame Sosostris”, who is a fictional fortune teller that Eliot created for this poem. This connects to the excerpt at the beginning of The Wasteland, as a “Sybil” is a type of fortune teller as well. The narrator goes to see this fortune teller and is told to, “Fear death by water… Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone, Tell her I bring the horoscope myself: One must be so careful these days.” Here the reader finds a reference to The Tempest by Shakespeare. The fourth and final stanza takes the reader to the city of London, where the narrator finds himself to be stuck in a large crowd. In this stanza, Eliot states, “Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,… I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.”  These lines help the reader conclude that the people the narrator sees are all sad and seem like they have already experienced death. The narrator then sees someone he recognized with the name Stetson. The narrator calls out to him and tells him that they fought together in Mylae. This is strange because the Battle of Mayle took place in 260 BC but the reader can also see from the quote above that there is pollution and the narrator is in the city of London, which suggests it is in a more modern time. This could be purposeful on Eliot’s part to demonstrate how war and death were problems thousands of years ago and they are still problems now. Again, this poem helps to contribute to the commonly used themes of T.S. Eliot, including sadness, despair, and in this poem, how death and life are intertwined. This poem also shows how society functions during WWI, as this poem was written in 1922.

The last poem, “Cousin Nancy”, was published in 1917 with all of the other poems from Prufrock and Other Observations. A narrator named Nancy is breaking away from the mold of how women should act in this time period, and her actions could be considered more modern. Eliot states, “Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked And danced all the modern dances; And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it, But they knew that it was modern.” These lines communicate to the reader that the older generations are not particularly angry or ashamed, just surprised and confused about Nancy’s actions. Eliot also states, “Upon the glazen shelves kept watch Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith, The army of unalterable law.” In these lines, ‘Matthew’ is referencing Matthew Arnold, and ‘Waldo’ is referencing Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both of these men were poets in the 19th century.

The lines above are the last few lines in the poem, and they demonstrate to the reader that the words and ideas of these two men and others around that time will continue to sit upon shelves criticizing and setting specific standards for how young women should act. These ideas will never leave and the traditions concerning women and how they are expected to act will never go away. In addition, there are again many pieces of figurative language and poetic devices in this poem. Repetition and hyperbole work together in the beginning of the poem when Eliot states, “Miss Nancy Ellicott  Strode across the hills and broke them,  Rode across the hills and broke them —” From these lines, the reader can grasp the ideas that Miss Nancy can overcome any and all obstacles that come her way, and that she breaks the mold  that society has put on her.

They are repeated so that the reader understands this idea. There is also a metaphor that compares Matthew and Waldo to guardians. Lastly, the words smoked and danced symbolize modern activities, and when Nancy participates in these activities, she is once again breaking the mold that society put on her. This poem and these examples once again help demonstrate the common themes of T.S. Eliot’s work and they help the reader get a better understanding of T.S. Eliot.

It would be beneficial to read not just these three poems, but any poems written by T.S. Eliot, as they all have a theme that is still relevant about the problems of the modern world. The reader might have to read the poem multiple times to understand, especially in “The Burial of the Dead”. If the reader is aware of T.S. Eliot’s style before reading his poetry, it could be helpful in the process of figuring out the meaning of the poem. As stated before, T.S. Eliot’s style is to focus more on the negative problems that society faced during his time, as well as out time. Depending on the poem, T.S. Eliot’s work can be very focused and clear, like in “Morning at the Window”, or it can be more up for interpretation, like “Cousin Nancy”. In “Morning at the Window”. Eliot states, “And along the trampled edges of the street I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids.” In these lines, it is very clear that the narrator is looking out into the street and observing people.

In “Cousin Nancy”, Eliot states, Strode across the hills and broke them, Rode across the hills and broke them —”. These lines do not have a clear meaning. This causes the reader to have to interpret it for themselves, and they might come up with something different than someone else. In addition, the overall goal that T.S. Eliot was trying to reach was to inform the reader of all of the problems of society. He has achieved this goal through the three poems, “Morning at the Window”, “The Burial of the Dead”, and “Cousin Nancy”, plus all of his other poems. When someone reads T.S. Eliot’s poems, they learn about many different problems that people faced during his time, and many of those problems still exist today.

T.S. Eliot uses the problems of the modern world plus figurative language and poetic devices to influence the reader to think about those problems. He uses things like metaphors, symbolism, alliteration, and very descriptive words in his poetry to convey this. The reader can see examples of this in Eliot’s three poems, “Morning at the Window”, “The Burial of the Dead”, and “Cousin Nancy”. All people should have the chance to read T.S. Eliot’s poetry so they can see how the problems of the modern world also affected people in earlier times.

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