Compare and Contrast the Ways in Which the Theme of Isolation Is Presented and Explored by Sebastian Faulks and T.S Eliot in ‘Engleby’ and ‘Selected Poems’.

Topics: T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, World War I Pages: 6 (2434 words) Published: December 13, 2012
Compare and contrast the ways in which the theme of isolation is presented and explored by Sebastian Faulks and T.S Eliot in ‘Engleby’ and ‘Selected Poems’. Throughout both ‘Engleby’ and ‘Selected Poems’ there is a prevailing sense of ‘apprehension of the tenuousness of human existence’ which is evident in the protagonists’ confining inability to communicate with the world around them, as seen in Prufrock’s agonised call, ‘so how should I presume?’. ‘The Wasteland’ was written by Eliot to ‘address the fragmentation and alienation characteristic of [contemporary] culture’, questioning mankind’s ability to move forward into cohesiveness despite the ‘more pronounced sense of disillusionment and cynicism’ which came about as a ‘direct consequence of World War One’. Similarly ‘Engleby’ questions the advancement of humanity: ‘something happened to this country, perhaps in the 1960’s. We lost the past’ indicating his thematic disappointment with the world around him because ‘significant things happen so slowly that it’s seldom you can say: it was then – or then’; his lack of impact on the world leading to self-isolation. Both ‘Engleby’ and ‘Selected poems’ emphasise their protagonist’s isolation through a confining inability to reconcile themselves with the futility of their existence. It has been said that ‘in both texts there is a choice of both engaging with and accepting the world in which [the protagonists] live, or finding some way of transcending it’ yet it is evident neither is an option, with the only comfort found in ‘religion and death’ for Eliot, or ‘blue pills’ for Engleby. In ‘The Waste Land’ Eliot creates a ‘dead land’ recovering from the effects of world war one; ‘a heap of broken images’ in ‘stony rubbish’- the barren landscape reflecting the war-torn, disintegrating society in which it was written. It mirrors the meaninglessness of human interaction and lack of inspiration emphasised through repetition in ‘Prufrock’: ‘In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo’. Engleby is similarly uninspired by conventional arts: ‘classical music will die before Tamla Motown, because it has no tunes by which it can be remembered’. ‘The Waste Land’ is often read as ‘a representation of the disillusionment of the post-war generation’ yet it also deals with Eliot’s own confining ‘treatment for a break-down in Lausanne, Switzerland’ which inspired ‘the mountains’ which offer hope for Marie despite her own continuous isolation: ‘In the mountains, there you feel free,’ ‘implying that when she is not in the mountains, on a sledding adventure, she does not feel free’. Marie therefore feels trapped, just as ‘humanity feels trapped in its own waste land’ which is why Engleby finds solace in ‘hash’, one of his few effective methods of escapism despite the resulting ‘memory loss’. Despite Engleby’s escape from the harsh realities of humanity through ‘memory loss’, his ‘ritual’ ultimately fails as he begins to remember the past: ‘the past was suddenly rushing in on me in a way I found hard to fight’. The failure of his methods hauntingly similar to Eliot’s failure to find satisfaction in other religions, seeing the failure of the ‘fisher king’, referring to a myth from ‘From Ritual to Romance’, in which Weston describes a kingdom where ‘the genitals of the… Fisher King, have been wounded... This injury which affects the king’s fertility also mythically affects the kingdom itself… the kingdom dried up and turned into a waste land. In order for the land to be restored, a hero must complete several tasks, or trials.’ It is these trials which Eliot later attempts to overcome in ‘Ash-Wednesday’, yet ultimately can only ‘[waver] between… the dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying’ highlighting his inability to transcend the mortal plane. In contrast Eliot presents death with a clear finality- ‘the drowned sailor’ has his ‘bones picked apart’ whilst the Christ figure experiences no resurrection, leading to a contrast in...
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