Imagery in T. S. Eliot's "Preludes"

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T.S. Eliot’s Preludes is a poem in which he portrays the isolation of an individual from society. His imagery is clear and he uses many techniques to achieve this. The central theme of the poem is about the feeling of despair at the decline and dissolution of modern civilization. This poem was written in 1917, when there was a worldwide questioning of the values of modern western civilization. Due to many factors, especially the First World War and the economic depression, many artists, poets and philosophers felt that modern industrial civilization had lost its sense of meaning and direction. There was a general criticism of the status quo. Preludes falls within this realm. In this poem, Eliot describes the modern city as an emptiness of meaning and uses imagery to intensify this feeling. The first lines suggest a feeling of decline and despair. The imagery helps to achieve this effect by the use of "winter" images. Winter is usually associated with a lack of growth and a loss of vitality. The poem is suggesting that the modern city is in a state of "winter" and has lost its direction and liveliness. Eliot builds on this image to suggest a further explanation of the modern state of mental societal corruption. The image of “smell of steaks" paints a picture of a polluted and mundane environment. The fourth line emphasizes this feeling of loss of vitality and urban filth. The day, and the society, is associated with an image of a burnt-out (loss of energy) cigarette end. The poet carefully pairs images of corruption with images that we usually associate with the modern urban setting, like steaks and cigarettes. He places these ordinary images into a situation that suggests a criticism of the modern world and lifestyle. The point is again emphasized with another image of decadence and uncleanness in “The grimy scraps". The image of " withered leaves" again points to the winter motif and paints a clear picture of death and decline. The poet is not only referring...
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