Themes of T. S. Eliot's poetry.

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       Eliot had a profound sense of his age. He was pre-eminently concerned with urban life, especially the life in big cities which are the hub of the modern industrial activities. He calls London, "The Unreal City" because inspite of its industrial progress and physical comforts, its surroundings are sordid and horrible. T. S. Pearce. writes in this connection: "This quality is the most striking, and the one that marks Eliot off immediately from most previous writers in English. His poetry is of streets and houses and people, and not of woods and fields and flowers"


Eliot draws on his own experiences of London to show the lack of direction and purpose, "the sense of drift and the heap of broken images."
T. S. Eliot


      We are much impressed by his characters and their gross selfishness and sensuality. There are city people, like Prufrock, Sweeney and Gerontion; they are representatives of corrupt, rotten and money-grabbing materialistic civilizations. Even the lovers in his poetry are greatly disillusioned on The Waste Land. Love degenerates into lust. It is a mere animal passion. The setting of his scenes is streets of big cities with all their ugliness and sting. According to Elizabeth Drew, "above all there are the smells, of steak in passage-ways, of stale beer, of cocktails and cigarettes, of dusty paper-flowers, of females in shuttered rooms."


      The tragedy at the heart of city life lies in the "torturing impact of a modern city on the lonely individual." Eliot draws on his own experiences of London to show the lack of direction and purpose, "the sense of drift and the heap of broken images." The tragedy of typist girt in The Waste Land - like the taxi throbbing waiting - highlights the futility of modern life, yet this horrible picture is not without silver lining. Eliot is not pessimist. The Waste Land can be converted into a rose garden and hollow men, transformed into purposeful citizens. They are prepared to pay the prize. The prize is faith rather than spiritual efforts, a life of service and dedication for the common good. It is said that The Waste Land is Eliot's Inferno, his Ash Wednesday is his Purgatorio and his Four Quartets is Paradiso.

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