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A Level English Guide to T. S. Eliot: Grouping The Poems - Key Features

Theresa Sowerby | Tuesday April 02, 2013

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  1. Introduction
  2. A Guide to Reading Four Early Poems
  3. Grouping The Poems - Key Features

Grouping the Poems – Key Features

There are a number of recurring motifs and poetic techniques within Eliot’s poems. The following is a brief roundup of the salient features which link the poems discussed above:

  • Mallarme on symbolism: Earlier poems are “deficient in mystery: they deprive the mind of the delicious joy of believing that it is creating. To name an object is to do away with ¾ of the enjoyment of the poem, which is derived from the satisfaction of guessing little by little: to suggest it, to evoke it – that is what charms the imagination.?
  • Dramatic qualitiesThe Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and Portrait of a Lady.  Creation of voices – dramatic monologue, or “dialogue? in Portrait of a Lady with voice of woman alternating with thoughts of man. Sparing use of well-chosen detail to suggest location, class etc.
  • Choice of imagery to reflect psychological states and preoccupations - expressionism
  • Symbolic actions – twisting violet – to embody emotions and desires.
  • Theatricality– Preoccupation with assuming an identity or social persona. Deliberately artificial scene setting at beginning of Portrait of a Lady - reflects strained mood of meeting and essential theatricality of the encounters with both participants conscious that they are playing roles.
  • Use of music (references and musical cadences, refrains etc.) to underscore emotion or express it symbolically. Imagery in Portrait of a Lady and incantatory metre or Rhapsody on a Windy Night.
  • Use of conventional time to structure poems in Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night. Passing of seasons in Portrait of a Lady literally and symbolically marks passage of time and disintegration of relationship.
  • Emphasis on senses and impressionistic use of imagery.
  • Use of concrete images to embody complex emotional states – e.g. in...

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