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T.S Eliot

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From His Life to the Page T. S. Eliot's work was greatly influenced by his life. There was a basic pattern in his works that corresponded with the events in his life. This pattern brought about many changes and phases in his poetry. Even Eliot's attitude was reflected in his work. A quote from T. S. Eliot: The Man and His Work states, " Eliot was a man with the highest standards in his poetry, his critisism, and his behavior to others." ( Spender 34). Perhaps much of this can be attributed to his birth toward the end of the Victorian Era. Eliot's background also had a major effect on his writing style. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888. Though Eliot was born in America, he spent much of his life in England. Although he credited his writing to both countries, he felt that he had more in common with the American side of his heritage. Once Eliot even stated, "I'd say that my poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America, than with anything written in my generation in England. That I am sure of." (Eliot 597). Eliot went to collage at Harvard University. This is where he began his major writing. Many of his most famous works were written while he was at college, such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock . The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was probably Eliot's most famous poem. This poem revolved around Prufrock and his infatuation with a woman. The similarities of Prufrock to Eliot are uncanny. Prufrock's love for this woman was somewhat like Eliot's. Prufrock was included in a set of poems called Prufrock and Other Observations. They all basically centered around the same characters and the same town. All of the characters are sophisticated individuals. They all have much in common with Eliot. Even Eliot's poetry had elements of his personality. T. S. Eliot's work, according to T. S. Pierce, centered around four periods. Each event in his life triggered a period change. Events such as his father's death, and love experiences often caused a change (Pearce 20). Eliot's first writing period would be his poems written between 1909 and 1915. The poetry of Prufrock and Other Observations consisted of those written from 1909-1912. These poems were rather carefree and amusing in nature. During this phase Eliot was attending college, but was apparently not having serious problems. In 1915 Eliot married a woman named Vivienne Haigh Haigh-Wood. Eliot's writing was definitely influenced by his wife. Eliot's second writing period began in 1916 and ended in 1918. During this next period Eliot wrote what was known as his Quatrain poems. These poems were a harsher set of poems compared to his earlier works (Pearce 20). Contained in these poems is a great bitterness toward institutions and a new civilization. Eliot speaks of how money now runs the world, and that which used to be important now takes a backseat. Eliot's third phase in his writing was from 1919- 1922. The poems of this period were much more dark. This was probably a result of the death of Eliot's father in 1919. Eliot wrote the poem Gerontion in 1919. This poem revolves around an old man's final thoughts. This could easily be associated with Eliot's father. Another poem of this period was The Waste Land. The Waste Land was often considered a poem with many mysteries. Eliot himself regarded it as a personal poem. It included many events from Eliot's life such as his father's death, the World War, and even his mother's life. There are also feelings of a lost childhood represented in The Waste Land. After this period, Eliot wrote no poetry until 1927. During Eliot's hiatus many events took place in his life. Eliot became confirmed in the Church of England. He eventually announced his Christianity, and his beliefs began to show. During this time Eliot also became a British citizen. This directed him into his Fourth writing period. This period consisted of his works after 1927. Most of these works were greatly Christian in nature. This obviously came from Eliot's new Christian beliefs. These beliefs became a huge part of his life. Eliot published many religious works including Idea of a Christian Society. The plays that Eliot wrote in this period reflected a spiritual content as well as many journeys and tasks. His works also became more political. He spoke of how corrupt and apathetic the new age had become. His new political views were probably sparked from his life as a British citizen. Analyzation of Eliot's life provides great insight on why his writing was divided into these four periods. Eliot's demeanor was also evident in his work. Many said that Eliot often had a very serious look about him. He was very sophisticated in his speech and actions, and when he was humorous, it was in a very strange way. He often would make remarks that made very little sense. Both sides of his personality showed up in his work. Most of his writing was serious in nature, but sometimes it was amusing such as his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Many people know of this work because the very popular musical Cats was based on it. Both of these were filled with nonsense humor. Eliot's influences made a huge impact on his writing. He was completely immersed in the works from Greek and Roman literature, as well as modern and medieval Europe. Eliot also greatly love the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam. Much of this influence was evident in the work. One of Eliot's greatest influences was Ezra Pound. Eliot met Ezra Pound in 1914, and that meeting proved to be of great significance to Eliot's writing career. Ezra pound helped Eliot to find a poem publisher when he was starting out. Through Pound, Eliot made many connections with very important and interesting authors. In addition to the social connections Pound helped Eliot to get, they made many outstanding literary connections as well. Pound's style was a big part of Eliot's writing, and Eliot admired Pound's writing in many ways. Eliot gave Pound his first draft of The Waste Land. Pound helped Eliot to get his poem published. Richard Ellman wrote the following in regard to Eliot's first version of The Waste Land. "In its early version The Waste Land was woven out of more kinds of material, and was therefore less grave and less organized." (Ellman 68). Perhaps this is the reason for the changes before the final draft. Eliot also admired the works of F. H. Bradley. He even went so far as to spend a year studying the work of this author. Bradley had an influence on Eliot's writing as well, for Eliot's style was somewhat similar to the work of Bradley. According to some, Eliot's childhood may very well have influenced his future writing. From childhood on, he had always been enthusiastic toward poetry. According to American Writers- A Collection



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