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    Prufrock and other observations Essay

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    In the analysis of Cousin Nancy it is clear to see Eliot’s reasons behind his migration to America. As a modernist thinker he felt frustrated by the restrictions that American culture held, and was attracted by the progressive attitudes to literature that Europe offered. The analysis of the poem mentions the modernist techniques that were implemented in his writing of Cousin Nancy, such as: symbolism, allusion, poet persona, fragmentary thoughts, syntax and environment and consciousness and discussed how they influenced the meaning of the poem.

    By a further identification of these techniques in relation to The Boston Evening Transcript it will become clear how Eliot’s poetry was shaped by European modernism. In the earlier analysis the focus was on the meaning behind the poem representing Eliot’s European tendencies. In the next analysis the style of writing will be analysed in order to highlight the same point. This poem follows a similar vein in meaning with its relatively obvious attack on the restricted culture of America compared to Europe.

    The symbolic description of the readers being compared to ‘ripe corn’ that sway in the wind, which follows the style of European Imagist writing, offers up a similar impression to the aunts in Cousin Nancy and the busts on the ‘glazen shelves’ that seem content in their passive ignorance of what is not affecting their insular existence. The ‘nod good-bye to La Rochefoucauld’ also hints at an affinity to European culture, just as the ‘The Boston Evening Transcript’ represents a feeling of tiredness towards the limits of American culture.

    The poet persona is part of the poem, representing those whose ‘appetites of life’ are not completely distinguished. This is a contrast to the omniscient persona of Cousin Nancy, but both poems use the poet persona or voice of the poem as an observer of the restrictions of American culture; and both allude to fragmentary memories of the vast openness and progress of European culture. Eliot’s use of the poet persona ‘unifies the thematic and formal qualities’ of his work, it adds coherence to poetry that has no formal rhyme scheme or stanza form (quoted in Brown and Gupta, p.

    231), and makes the fragmented imagery read like a train of thought or in modernist terms a ‘stream of consciousness’. This connection and coherence created by the poet persona in juxtaposition with the fragmented syntax highlights Eliot’s absorption of the European modernist ideas of Henri Bergson that influenced his Prufrock poems. Bergson’s theories on the continuing link between past, present and future, and how consciousness is governed by perception and memories of our environment that fragment and intermingle, and propel us forward towards our future have an obvious influence on Eliot’s style.

    The poet persona creates Bergson’s time link continuum for the fragmented images of perception and memory and leads the poem forward; and this style rather than the traditional way of writing poetry using a rhyme scheme, specific stanza form and distinguishable syntax highlights Eliot’s modernist ideals, and alongside its meaning identifies his intellectual migration to Europe. Both poems use allusions to other works of literature to emphasise their drawing away from American culture and embracing European modernism.

    The ‘nod’ to ‘La Rochefoucauld’ is an obvious example in The Boston Evening Transcript as his work took the view of ‘undercutting attitudinizing and hypocrisy’ (quoted in Brown and Gupta, p. 245). This forthright concise style was not in keeping with Romantic or Transcendentalist forms that were still dominating American attitudes and so Eliot’s allusion or ‘nod’ to La Rochefoucauld’s work can be seen as highlighting the pain that the poet persona goes through by ‘turning away from a venerable European cultural milieu towards a dull American existence.

    ‘ (quoted in Brown and Gupta, p. 245). This image is comparable to the use of the busts in Cousin Nancy as again Eliot uses the technique of allusion to compare Meredith’s impregnable stars to the attitudes of American writers. Eliot’s style of writing also offers up an allusion to European and more specifically French modernist ideas with its comparisons to the work of Laforgue. This allusion takes on the symbolic ideas already discussed that highlight a disillusionment of American culture from the point of view of a modernist persona but also in the way the poetry is written.

    Laforgue symbolised Eliot’s use of condensed syntax and free verse, and this point underlines just how far removed Eliot’s intellectualism became from America. The influences of Laforgue, Bergson and European modernism in general allowed Eliot to bring together a ‘synthesis of observation, aesthetic expression and philosophical understanding’ to his poetry (quoted in Brown and Gupta, p. 263). The subject matter of the two poems discussed and the European influenced style in which they were written identifies that Eliot’s work and views on modernism were significantly shaped by his migration from America to Europe.

    Bibliography Brown, R. D. and Gupta, S. (eds) (2005) Aestheticism and Modernism: Debating Twentieth-Century Literature 1900-1960, London: Routledge in association with The Open University. Eliot, T. S. (2001) Prufrock and Other Observations, Faber and Faber Ltd Gupta, S and Johnson, D. (eds) (2005) A Twentieth-Century Literature Reader: Texts and Debates, London: Routledge in association with The Open University. Heath, D. and Boreham, J. (2002) Introducing Romanticism, Totem Books.

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