AD's English Literature : Critical Appreciation of T. S. Eliot’s Preludes:The Rottenness, the Corruption and Decadence of Contemporary Society

Critical Appreciation of T. S. Eliot’s Preludes:The Rottenness, the Corruption and Decadence of Contemporary Society

T. S. Eliot’s Preludes , which is included in Prufrock and Other Observations, 1977, a collection of poems ,is frankly satirical of modern society, and the love – theme, when it appears, receives an ironic treatment. The rottenness, the corruption and decadence of contemporary society is exposed with a rare poignancy here. It is not unfair to say that the author has miserably failed here to notice anything positive in life .This, however, does not in anyway reduce the significance of his poems, which are excellent poetic manifestations of the themes through their use of imagery.

            As it is already stated, in his Preludes Eliot depicts starkly the meaningless society of the slums at nightfall and in the mornings, and he might have Boston city in his mind. Simply, it depicts urban landscape expresses disgust with the rootlessness of modern life. The poem presents us with city scenes which mostly depict ugliness and squalor. In fact, any modern city can be identified with it. It vividly throws light upon the decadence of societal values and loosing bonds of humanity. Thus, we can easily identify the subject with that of Charles Louis Philippe’s who wrote about Paris as a city of degradation, poverty and gloom. In terms of several imageries Eliot tries to depict the modern society. There is an emotional unity out of fragmentary impressions and a note of ‘reverie’.

            The poem begins with a description of evening, dull and uninspiring and if we can say so, lifeless winter – its six o’clock – the burnt smell an unpleasant sensation for a modern man:
“ The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.”
 With a set of adjectives the scene appears grimy, withered, vacant, broken and lonely.

            The second stanza shifts to a morning scene where modern men with their false personalities resume their falsified days.
“….. With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes…………”

            The third stanza is more vivid with imagery. The stanza begins with the word ‘you’ which probably suggests as prostitute or a modern man. A modern man like that of a prostitute is no way out of the worn-out bed, backache, and a vivid waiting. With The thousand sordid images of waste soul between the shutters, a modern man lives a life of spend, waste and sentimentality. If a prostitute is selling her physical ruminants, the modern men are paralyzed of salvation or edification. The sparrow in the gutters suggests lechery, a show of spiritual degradation of modern man. Modern man finds himself on the verge of extinction on the bed’s edge. He hardly understands the goal of his life, roaming along the streets:
“you had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understand;”

            The last stanza again shifts to evening in a balancing form. The spiritually starved modem man in their shabby surrounding find their mean in certain certainties i.e. small material gain. The poet is so moved by the dearth of spiritually in urban life that he feels the spiritual agony of the world like that of Christ:
“ I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.”

Thus in Preludes Eliot finds degeneration, decay, monotony in contemporary human life vividly portraying the metaphysical emptiness of men in modern metropolis. However he is determined to redeem the soul like “ancient women gathering fuel in vacant lots.” It looks like a vain attempt to do so. It’s a wait like Sicilian myth; we really feel pity for ourselves for the helpless and lonely situation of ours.


  1. Very good materials. But can you add some critics comment? Thanks.

  2. A critic is a bunch of biases held loosely together by a sense of taste...Whitney Balliett

    Dear Moumi, I will add them so.

    Thanks for your comment.


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