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Prufrock v. Waste Land

topic posted Wed, July 13, 2005 - 6:07 PM by  Frank
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Ok, let's get some discussion going on this tribe, which seems as dead as some passages from The Waste Land/Hollow Men.

What's your favorite Eliot? Prufrock? WL? Cats? Let's hear it. Be honest.
posted by:
Frank
Washington, D.C.
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  • Unsu...
     
    For my tastes, Four Quartets is way in the lead. I believe that most of what needs saying by literature was said in Four Quartets, beautifully.

    The Waste Land and Prufrock are both stunning works, but I find them to be spiritually immature. They both have a kind of self-important, adolecent quality to them. In my view, that self-absorption is the true genesis of the crisis of meaning they depict. Meaning is a problem that can never be solved in itself. The only solution to problems of meaning is setting the problem down and focusing on something else.
    • I agree with your assessment of the adolescent quality of Prufrock. In fact, I came to love the poem as an adolescent -- who could ask for a better expression of teen angst?

      I wouldn't put Waste Land in the same category as Prufrock, however. Self-important: certainly. But that may be a natural outgrowth of treating fundamental aspects of the human condition. And delving into the obscure references is so much fun.

      Now that you've mentioned it though, I will give Four Quartets another close read.
  • The Waste Land, of course.

    "I will show you fear in a handfull of dust."
    • I used to think, until I read it closely, that Eliot's post-conversion poetry was calmer, simpler, the more staid product of a mind more at ease with itself.

      In fact, it's way more complex than The Waste Land, and at least as uneasy. The sentences are deceptively simple, the imagery deceptively pretty. The same death imagery that haunted his earliest poems is still in most of of those, the same sense of incipient despair. And somehow, with his conversion to Christianity, the existential questions got harder.

      The Four Quartets is a good example of this. Read line by line, it's a convoluted existential riddle, where every sentence contradicts its own assertions, and it's even more difficult to tell than in The Waste Land what character or characters are speaking.

      I still love Eliot's early poetry, however, and The Waste Land is still one of my favorite poems ever. It never fails to make me feel woogily.
  • Disrupted emotions, alternating between what was lost, never gained, yet never forgotten.

    Searching and waiting for the Hyacinth girl, but oh, how desolate and empty is the sea...
  • Unsu...
     

    Without question, it is The Waste Land. My favorite sections are the first, The Burial of the Dead and the fifth, What The Thunder Said. His description of the final moments before Christ is arrested and taken off to be executed, the promise or at least possibility of Spring (and with its return, the rebirth of life), the passage to Emmaus, the final arrival at the Chapel Perilous, the flash of lightning, and, finally the rain, and then the voice of the Thunder---all of this is magnificent. I also appreciate the way that he blends, in a very short space, the imagery and ideas of Christianity, paganism, and Buddhism to tell this story of birth, death, and rebirth. After all, he had been reading a good deal of The Golden Bough.

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