Thomas Stearns Eliot was a playwright, poet, publisher, essayist, and literary critic. Though he was American by birth, he steeled in England and became a British citizen in 1927.  Eliot is considered one of the major poets of the twentieth century. Eliot is considered as one of the major poets of the twentieth century. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” published in 1915, engrossed widespread attention of readers and critics.

The poem is seen as the masterpiece of the twentieth century Modernist movement. Some best poems followed this poem in English literature. The poems include The Hollow Men, The Waste Land, Four Quartets, and Ash Wednesday. He is also famous for the seven plays he wrote. Among those plays, The Cocktail Party and Murder in the Cathedral are most celebrated. In 1948, he was bestowed with the Nobel Prize in Literature for his exceptional, pioneer influence on present-day poetry.

A Short Biography of T. S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot (T. S. Eliot) was born on 26th September 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. Until 1906, he lived in St. Louise and got admission at Harvard University. He graduated and also earned a master’s degree from Harvard University. He also contributed his poem to the Harvard Advocate. He left America in 1910 and moved to Sorbonne.  

After spending a year in Paris, he went back to America and enrolled himself in PhD; however, he went back to Europe and, in 1914, permanently settled in England. In 1915, he wedded Vivienne Haigh-Wood and started working in England. He first started working as a teacher and then in Lloyd’s Bank.

In the same years, he met his contemporary poet Ezra Pound who later influenced him greatly. Ezra Pound recognized his poetic genius and helped him in the publication of his work in journals, particularly the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in 1915. In 1917, his first collection of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published. This collection instantly gained him success, and he became the foremost poet of Avant-garde.

In 1922, Eliot published The Waste Land. With the publication of this poem, the reputation of Eliot as a mythic proportion grew instantly. Now, this poem is considered to be the only persuasive work of the Modernist movement in English literature. By 1930, and for the next three decades, Eliot was the most prominent poet and literary critic in the literary circle of the English-speaking world.

Eliot, as a poet, turned his sympathy for the metaphysical poets in English literature of the seventeenth century, particularly to John Donne. Moreover, he also showed an affinity for the French symbolist poets of the nineteenth century, including Laforgue and Baudelaire. He praised the subject matter, and the drastic revolution brought in poetic techniques by these poets.

His poems focused on the disillusionment of the post-WW1 younger generation with the conventions and values (both social and literary) of the Victorian Era. In his late thirties, he converted into Orthodox Christianity. He greatly influenced the literary taste of his time with the promoting views that were founded in religious and social criticism.

The poetry he wrote in his late years includes “Four Quartets” and “Ash Wednesday.” Then he wrote on literary criticism, and social criticisms include The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, The Sacred Wood, Notes towards the Definition of Culture, and After Strange Gods. Eliot also wrote the famous plays that include The Cocktail Part, Murder in the Cathedral, and The Family Reunion.

In 1927, at the age of thirty, Eliot became a citizen of England. He was associated with the Faber & Faber publication for a long time and published the poems of young poets. Ultimately he became the director of the publishing house. In 1933, he separated from his first wife and freed himself from the scandalously unhappy marriage. In 1956, Eliot again married Valerie Fletcher. On 4rth January 1965, he died in London. 

T. S. Eliot’s Writing Style

The perception of the world strongly influences the literary performance of the writer. The era in which Eliot was living made his writing style exceptionally melancholy. It was the time of depression and anguish. He uses traditional dramatic structure and mythic methods in his works. For example, his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a dramatic monologue whereas the poems Ash Wednesday and The Wasteland are mythical.

 His works illustrate his ideas about the world. For him, the world is nothing but a place of struggle. Unlike Romantics, he used realistic themes in his works. By using his religious imagery, he talked about the human isolation and depression prevailing in modern society. Eliot’s personal experiences shaped his literary style. Thus all of his poems have incredible styles.

The literary style of Eliot differs from the contemporary writers, particularly William Butler Yeats. Yeats, most of the time, was unable to express his mood in his works. The main aim of Eliot’s writing was to touch the lives of people and communicate with them. By bringing out true emotions in his works, he intended to portray real life. He achieved this by employing real-life events in his works to which ordinary people can relate to than adventure and romance.

Eliot was a member of the Anti-Romantic revolution. That is why his poems have a deeper meaning, as is more realistic. David Daiches said about Eliot that Eliot’s poems are the combination of philosophical, mythical, and Christian imagery; by employing these things, Eliot finds out the poetic way to describe the modern dilemma poetically. 

It is the unique style that made his poetry stand out from the beginning. Eliot employed his own language in his poetry, which instantly appeals to the readers. He used vivid imagery to describe his ideas. This imagery appears to be realistic to the reader and makes him feel that as if he is a part of the poem. For example, his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and The Wasteland is as appealing to the readers as it was at the time of Eliot.

Eliot remarkably manipulates the phrases of his poem, handles the pauses and stops, and shifts the formal and informal speech. All these techniques show his skills, and he continued using it throughout his works. The poem “Four Quarters” is the perfect example of Eliot’s use of these techniques and mystical methods. He creates a wonderful sense of illusion in the poem by relating himself to it.

In the poem The Waste Land, Eliot illustrates his love for religion and pulls himself away from the difficult life of humans. Though Eliot talks about corruption in modern society, he does not show his anger and rage against it. However, he portrays the involvement of politics in religion. 

Moreover, Eliot intended to have an impact on readers through his poems and employed deeper and vivid meaning in it; particularly, his later works are more spiritual and religious than earlier, and he has been converted to orthodox Christianity. He made his poetry appear like true poetry. In other words, readers were not supposed to confuse any piece with poetry. Moreover, his poetry was not meant for ordinary minds as he employed deeper meaner meaning that can only be captured by intellectuals.

The main themes of Eliot’s works make his readers relate themselves to their everyday life. By reading the poems of Eliot, one may say that he has a pessimistic and dark mood as his literary style sets a tone of melancholy. Another important theme of Eliot’s works, as pointed by Unger, is “failure of communication” and “positive relationship between man and women.” These themes are found in Eliot’s early poems, such as La Figlia ate Piange and Hysteria.

By employing the theme of the failure of communication, Eliot illustrates a bigger theme of human isolation. He talks about how modern man is alienating from the world around him. The modern man is trying to find out peace by becoming one with him. He tried to communicate the difficulties of modern man in the world, which has lost all meanings.

In the poem The Waste Land, Eliot uses the theme of human isolation and estrangement from the people around him; it is also one of the famous poems that describe disgusting and depressing personalities of modern society. The poem is a deeply personal poem, and the foundation of its technique and development lies with the conscience of the individual. The basic theme of the poem is to rise above oneself.

Eliot’s poem “Four Quartets” is different from the rest of his poem as it does use the technique of symbolism and repetition. In order to make the pattern appear in the poem, repetition is used. Similarly, to make the readers better understand the work, symbolism is used. Repetition and symbolism in the poem help the reader to associate themselves with it and thereby to make it more interesting.

Eliot brings dramatic effect in his poem by using repetition and symbolism. However, he did not make his poem appear like drama. In order to describe the unusual ideas, he gave vivid imagery in his poetry. Moreover, the dramas Eliot wrote are so intense that critics often call it exaggerated. Moreover, it is really difficult to distinguish between Eliot as a poet and Eliot as a critic. Despite being the famous poet and writer of his time, Eliot is often criticized for his writing style.

Works Of T. S. Eliot