Context Reflected in Preludes and Prufrock

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A composer’s context is reflected in both their concerns and the stylistic features of their texts. Consider this statement by exploring the relationship between text and context in at least two poems you studied by Eliot.

Eliot’s modernist poems, Preludes and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, depict the effects of industrialisation on societal consciousness, through lenses coloured by war and suffering. Through the eyes of two alienated individuals, Eliot suggests that life is bereft of meaning, and that to live is not to engage with God and morality, but with nothing at all.

“Preludes” is written as a reflection on a post war society where individualism was lost and the effects of urbanisation prominent. Written as a cyclical progression of thought, a stream of consciousness, it suggests that life during Eliot’s time was repetitive, where there was a meaningless routine everyday. The narrative voice shifts from third person “his” to second person “you”, returns to third person and then first, third. The shift from evening to morning suggests a new day, a fresh beginning: a ray of hope emerging from the despair of war. But Eliot subverts this idea in the next line, reminding us of the dreary atmosphere, where the city has “the faint stale smells of beer” and “the sawdust-trampled street” with “muddy feet”. The olfactory imagery used portrays the sordid desolation of the city. The use of “thousand” in “a thousand furnished rooms” suggests the insignificance of mankind and Eliot subverts the idea of individualism. “Short square fingers studding pipes,” suggests the city was filled overindulgent and gorging individuals.

Both Eliot’s poems incorporate diction with negative connotations, emphasizing Eliot’s view on his society at the time. He submits that it was a dreary place with no hope, the streets were grimy and broken, decayed objects lay within the city.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is also written as an internal monologue of...
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