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MN/JUN/2010

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PRELUDES


Eliot consciously uses certain specific styles and techniques of poetic composition
that are characteristic of the first few decades of the twentieth century. These
include:

• Stream of Consciousness
This style of writing found strong favour with the modernists. Here, the
reader has no choice but to go along with the flow of thought in the
speaker’s mind. Many times, there is no apparent rational link between the
images or thoughts passing through the speaker’s head and they do not make
a coherent sense to the reader. However, they are the key to understanding
the speaker’s own emotional or psychological state and also his relationship
with the world and the people around him. They help us understand how he
experiences what he sees, hears or feels. The reader’s task is also to discover
the connections between the apparently disjointed images and thoughts. To a
certain extent, the reader becomes a psychoanalyst.

• Imagism
This poetic style flourished in England and America between the years 1912
and 1917. Poems were written in free verse (no specific meter and no end
rhymes) and poets tried to convey as precisely and briefly as possible, and
without comment or generalization, their impression of a visual object or
scene. This style often made use of metaphors that were not immediately
clear. Sometimes two vivid and precise images were linked without
specifying their connection. Poets had complete freedom to choose the
subject for their poems. Common speech language was used, and the exact
word was always to be used, instead of the almost exact word.
MN/JUN/2010

• Symbolism
This style had its origin in the Romantic period but influenced the
modernists very strongly. It was based on the belief that there is a systematic
and natural correlation between the human mind and the outer world and
between the world of nature and that of spirits. Thus objects in the world
outside could be used as symbols to say something about the state of mind of
the observer or speaker. Thus for the poet in the Preludes, “vacant lots” or
“grimy scraps” of newspaper flying about in the wind become symbols
respectively of the emptiness of human lives and the moral degradation and
rootlessness of human souls.

• Impressionism
This was originally a 19th-century style in painting. When used in poetry, the
speaker centers his attention on a character's mental life such as his
impressions, feelings, sensations and emotions, but without trying to
interpret them. The poet selects a few details to convey the sense
impressions left in his mind by an incident or a scene. This style of writing
occurs when characters, scenes, or actions are portrayed from a personal or
subjective point of view of reality. In other words, the reader views the
outside world as it is impressed upon the mind of the poet or speaker. Thus it
is important to understand that the hopelessness, despair, gloom, indignity,
monotony and lack of direction which are emphasized in the urban life
which the poet is observing in the Preludes, is his own subjective or
personal interpretation – those who live in that world may not agree with the
poet’s judgment at all.