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What are Eliots thematic concerns in Rhapsody on a Windy Night? Aleena Khan Rhapsody on a Windy Night is a poem by T.S.

Eliot about a man strolling down an empty street at midnight. Submerged in his memories, he reflects on his life as he encounters characters such as a prostitute and the moon. The poem provides insight into the mind of the narrator- the persistence of memory, the decay of society and the breakdown of communication, leading to an overall feeling of isolation. Many literary features are used in this poem, especially symbolisms, allusions, dark imageries, and personifications. Lastly, it is important to note that this poet persona is not intended to represent Eliot himself but instead as a fictional construction that brings together the formal and thematic elements of the poem. Rhapsody is, by definition, an enthusiastic expression of feeling- or a song. This implies a free verse with an upbeat tone. On the other hand, the overall tone of the poem is bleak, and is an expression of hopelessness rather than ecstasy. Windy signifies chaos, as the swift movement of wind displaces and destroys. Night suggests isolation and loneliness, which the narrator expresses throughout the poem. Already Eliot is alluding to the themes of the poem. The irregular verse suggests a stream of consciousness. The first mention of the moon is presented through the personas delirium of memories, Held in a lunar synthesis, Whispering lunar incantations. The moon appears to be in the middle of two opposing forces: unconsciousness and consciousness, or dream and reality. It plays an effective role in resurrecting forgotten memories in the past. Through his thoughts, the past and the present blend together, Dissolve the floors of memory. Memory, as an entity, exists in the poem. Eliot refers to The memory instead of a memory or my memory. This separation marks the strength and control of the personas memories over him, as well as emphasises upon the theme of isolation. However, one could say that, despite its permanent presence in the personas mind, it is a fleeting thing, throws up high and dry. This could reflect the idea of tides receding and coming in again, bringing chaos. Memories flood our minds when they are unwanted, but can elude us when we wish to remember them. Whilst the moon represents dreams, the motif of time represents reality. Twelve oclock. Midnight. The beginning or the end of a day. It symbolises mystery and spirituality, which is why it is associated with the lunar synthesis. Time, however, is represented through the character of the crab, And a crab one afternoon, in a pool, An old crab with barnacles on his back. Here, Eliot shows us that time is in fact passing. The afternoon he speaks of is the past, which he cannot escape. This is emphasised in the metaphor of a broken spring in a factory yard. The spring represents the persona- or society in general- and the rust that clings is the past that never lets go. You cannot escape it. This realisation perhaps leads to the transition of the moon-of dreams- to a washedout smallpox cracks her face. This unromantic imagery suggests disease and underlines the tone of hopelessness in the poem.

The poem was written after the First World War. There was a severe lack of hope in society, with people questioning their identity, Every street lamp that I pass Beats like a fatalistic drum. This poignant simile suggests that the lives of the people in the poem are set on their predetermined path. They cannot escape their lives, and all the while the fatalistic drum replicates a funeral march that echoes their futile existence. The cat in the fourth stanza, as it devours a morcel of rancid butter emphasises this desperation felt due to poverty. This is significant as we can relate this theme of hopelessness and the lack of meaning in life as an extensive commentary of 20th century society in Europe. However, another significance of this simile can be related to a historical context of the society during WWI. The predetermined nature of the drum juxtaposes to the perception of European society before WW1, where they believed that God set their path in life. The decay of society and theme of isolation occurs in the metaphor, As a madman shakes a dead geranium. The first human encounter the persona has is one of a madman, a social outcast. This reflects the breakdown of communication in society, and is emphasised by the next stanza. The street -lamp sputteredmuttered, is a reflection of the persona. The awkward actions of the personification imitate the awkwardness of our narrator. The prostitute in the line, Regard that woman Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door, is another example of how society has changed. It is an irony that she hesitates since a prostitutes job is to confront men, and yet, she is unable to make human contact. This suggests the lack of communication in society, which contributes to its overall deterioration. Eliot raises a question of morality in the poem. Prostitution is an immoral profession, Which opens on her like a grin, and Eliot uses disturbing imagery to emphasize this. The word grin is a sinister image, and we feel sympathy for the prostitute. Identity is questioned again as Eliot reduces this menacing image to And you can see the corner of her eye Twists like a crooked pin. Her morality is deformed- crooked- but Eliot stresses upon the eyes, I could see nothing behind that childs eye. This is a biblical allusion where the eyes are considered to be the windows to ones soul. Yet, the child that Eliot mentions cannot see through the soul, hence suggesting the child to be deformed by immorality. This shows that he sees hopelessness in humanity and could be seen as a symbol of his future. A crab denotes a hard-shelled and evasive creature, and it has a connotation of being crusty and crabby, which both suggest harsh, ill-tempered characters. Eliot writes of an old crab with barnacles on his back, suggesting that the crab has been aging and neglected as time passes. The connotation of the crab as well as the imagery of the barnacles on its back is used to characterise humanity and their alienation in society. It Gripped the end of a stick implying that it craves human contact as much as the persona. The final stanza is structured in short phrases, almost like a list of instructions. The persona returns home, though the robotic rhythm implies that it is not a

happy home. The tooth-brush hangs on the wall implies that he lives alone, separate from the world. It is an ordinary act, contrasting with the final ironic thrust- The last twist of the knife. Eliot compares this mundane, non communicative life with death. The repetitive routine of prepar(ing) for life is hopeless, and Eliot uses this last line to emphasise on the dark, disturbing image of societys woes. Perhaps Eliot is asking the reader to find hope. Memory seems to haunt us with its bitterness, but Eliot stresses upon the fact that time still passes and we cannot be caught in this repetitive routine or we will not be able to go on. The descent of society into a hole of immorality has Eliot questioning our identities, whether this is all we truly are. The monotony of life and the desperation of survival are addressed, and Eliot uses the persona in the poem to emphasis the consequences of being hopeless in this world. Through personification and imagery, Eliot successfully evokes the realisation that we must let go of the past, and move on from the mundane present we live in.