How does Eliot use fragmentation to portray alienation in his poetry?
Make reference to The Hollow Men and other texts
Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me – Sigmund Freud
T. S. Eliot was an eminent figure of the twentieth-century Modernist movement. He dissociated from traditional literary conventions and sharpened his optic on aesthetic and experimental language form, doing so to fabricate the sensorial experience of alienation within his poetic oeuvre and thus validating the Freudian truism of a poets depth and reach into the recesses of the human psyche.
Eliots privileging of fragmentation within The Hollow Men, Preludes and Journey of the Magi offers an evocative portrayal of individual alienation and theological abjection, utilising the holistic application of this technique to strengthen textual integrity and heighten a responders empathic engagement with the text through the affirmation of Eliots capacity to articulate an individuals emotional experiences before they themselves have borne witness to it.
Eliots 1925 text, The Hollow Men, is a lyrical and symbolic comment on mankinds retreat from meaning, tracking a deferment of faith and suspension of spiritual belief. This construal nexus, which ultimate foregrounds the experience of alienation, is evoked using fragmentation as an integral structural and linguistic device. In doing this, Eliot constructs a sensorially immersive encounter for responders, substantiating the Freudian insight into a poets omniscience. The fragmented structural form of the Hollow Men which utilises short stanzas to narrate two duelling personas, one who acknowledges Those who have crossed / With direct eyes, to deaths other Kingdom and the other who claims that There are no eyes [in the] broken jaw of our lost kingdoms.
This fractured telling of two dichotomous perspectives is emblematic of the experience of spiritual alienation which Eliot privileges within the poem. In an earlier lyrical poem of Eliots, Preludes, this fractured structural composition is achieved through the distinguishing of four distinct stanzas depicting individual instances of corruption and desolation in modern society. The shifting temporal references of six oclock, morning, night and four and five and six oclock track the distinction between these instances, therefore intrinsically infusing a fragmented recount of decrepitude which simultaneously functions as a comment on isolation. Whilst The Hollow Men focalises on abjection and meaninglessness in what Robert Crawford describes as very much a spiritual country of the mind, Preludes highlights this sense of alienation within the rootless cosmopolitan of modern society, as John Xiros Cooper explains. The dislocated imagery of Preludes opening stanza depicts a setting of grimy scraps and vacant lots a barren context void of animation and life. The accumulative listing of images such as withered leaves, smokey days, and broken blinds intimates a sense of fragmentation, utilising a recurring backdrop within Eliots suite of poetry to reflect the burnt-out emotions of lethargy and listlessness which overwhelms an individual wandering aimlessly through a decaying environment in which they cannot find inclusion. This notion is emphasised in the hyperbolic reference to a thousand furnished rooms, which evokes an atmosphere of rootlessness and dispossession within a vision of tedium that extends across society. The Hollow Men sees this commentary on personal, social alienation develop into one addressing abjection within spiritual personhood a progression which tracks Eliots own isolating journey towards spiritual awakening. The paradoxical reference to Shape without form, shade without colour imitates this alienating spiritual journey through disorientating responders. Its negating semantic structure establishes a fractured caricature of self that exists in a context devoid of spiritual definition, therefore presenting to responders insight into a potentially approaching experience with faith, or more accurately, a lack thereof. This paradox, married with the sinister tonality created by the sibilance, demarcates the sense of alienation which has developed within Eliots poetic oeuvre and demonstrates how his use of fragmentation has progressed to address both similar and disparate examinations of abjection. Thus, it is in The Hollow Men and Preludes that Eliot uses fragmentation to depict experiences of exclusion, mirroring these explorations off of his own personal encounters and thus in doing so, endowing his work with textual integrity and literary authorial omniscience.
Furthermore, The Hollow Men examines alienation through the employment of fragmentation within the repeated motif of damaged objects. References to broken columns, broken stone and broken glass is an objective correlative which Eliot, as inspired by the French symbolists, uses to write about frontiers of consciousness beyond which words fail (Helen Gardner). This image of brokenness encapsulates the internal division existing within the mind of the persona the isolating initial encounter with spirituality which perpetuates feelings of abjection and ostracisation. The infusion of this imagery on a fundamental level of language construction demonstrates a textual integrity present within Eliots text which allows for responders to extract from the text a more potent evaluation of spiritual alienation. This notion of isolation is furthered by the uncertain and dislocated use of personal pronouns. Throughout the text we, our, us, I and they intermix and overlap across stanzas. This sensitive variation is suggestive of the personas crippling sense of displacement in deaths dream kingdom. Eliots 1927 poem Journey of the Magi also utilises this technique of shifting personal pronouns to depict alienation. The fissure between the first and second stanza we and the I of the final stanza discerns a fragmentation in the personas retelling. After recounting the long journey through cities hostile and towns unfriendly using the collective pronoun, the persona shifts to the singular I where he engages in a reflection of this journey, admitting that All this was a long time ago, I remember,/ And I would do it again. Thus, Eliot divides the poem into two distinct sections; with the first being used as a commentary on the arduous and isolating encounters with spirituality which occurs against a backdrop of societys voice singing in [mans] ear, saying / That [faith is] all folly; and the latter using the intimate I to express the alienation which follows a spiritual awakening, the sense of being no longer at ease in the old dispensation amongst alien people, and yet, regardless of this, indicating a sense of appreciation for this solitude with the modal assertion that I should be glad of another death. It is in this conclusive recognition of a spiritual Birth being like Death that Eliot denotes yet another layer of alienations complexity. Eliots progression from the despairing and desolately lonely image of spirituality offered in The Hollow Men to the Rilkean acceptance of this spiritual solitude found within Journey of the Magi denotes the multivalent presence of abjection within the human experience. Eliot manipulates the tone across his poetic oeuvre to most aptly capsulate these divisive layers of alienation, using contrasting and fragmented prosody to articulate this fundamental aspect of the human condition to responders, foreshadowing, in a Freudian sense, these experiences which they are bound to confront in life.
Hence, T. S. Eliot utilised fragmentation within his poems The Hollow Men, Preludes and Journey of the Magi to capture experiences of alienation; as influenced by his own social and personal context. His status as a Modernist poet strongly contributed to this experimental structural and linguistic aesthetic, which ultimately allowed for a holistic expression of abjection within his poetic oeuvre, fashioning a sensorial equivalent for responders. Therefore, this validates the Freudian assertion that everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me.
You tossed a blanket from the bed, / You lay upon your back and waited;
– ? anaphora creates a distinction between the actions. An accumulative listing which contributes to the sense of fragmentation. Not only is the persona disenfranchised from society sitting along the beds edge, but they in themselves seem to be harbouring a fissure of self which reveals itself in their disjointed actions and the use of caesura and short sentences.
The imperative second-person perspective immerses the reader into this experience ? subverting traditional inclusion with a sense of distance
His soul stretched tight across the skies trampled by insistent feet ? taut and ready to snap
Impatient to assume the world ? affirms the distance of the persona
Infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering thing ? paradox
Variation of syntactical form, With the smell of steaks in passageways. / Six oclock.