Both of the poets, Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot wrote their works in the difficult, post war years. The whole society was in a shock from the experience it gained in the war. The world has become a complete chaos. To the generation that wasted their best years of youth in the passed war, it was a shock to discover the instability of the world, of the country, of the nation they have fought for. They fought in the war because of their belief that they were doing the right thing and suddenly they realized that the dream they have fought for was just an illusion.
The society was shattered. People lost their dreams and illusions of a better and just world. This disillusionment is very well seen in the works of the poets of this period. This decade was full of cynicism, irony, and a toughness of mind. The works are full of symbols of emptiness, deprivation, solitude, chaos, death, desperation, hopelessness, void, loneliness, and confusion.
In this essay, I am going to concentrate on the works of two great poets, Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot. Wallace Stevens wrote about ordinary everyday things that people usually do or that surround them. The poems of Wallace Stevens evoke the eeling of peace, calmness, stillness, quietness and ease but when we look at them closer, they contain the elements of disorder and disillusionment. An example can be seen in Stevens` poem “Disillusionment of Ten O`Clock”.
Even when we look at the name of the poem, we can see that “disillusionment” is the key word of the poem. Disillusionment” seems to be saying that the people who wear white night – gowns (and are always in bed by ten o`clock! ) are disillusioned in the sense that they are deprived of the “illusions” that a healthy imagination creates. The poet is playing here with the irony implicit in a situation where people live their daily lives having various illusions, yet have no illusions and imaginations when it comes to sleeping.
All of hem wear white night – gowns, which shows how all of them want to fit in, how they want to be part of the crowd, their night – gowns representing some kind of uniforms. Stevens plays with the color white, when he says that they are like ghosts: “The houses are haunted by white night – gowns. ” (1) By this symbol he did not refer just to the “spooks” but he also meant that their minds re completely blank, with no own ideas and creativity. They are not going to dream about “baboons and periwinkles”. 2)
They are not capable of dreaming of such extraordinary things. The only “extraordinary” person in this poem is the old sailor, who as the only one dares to dream “in color” because he did not live a boring, ordinary life but an exciting one. He is not a part of the mass of people that lead the preordained lives of the materialistic society. Another Stevens` poem that I am going to look at is the poem called “Anecdote of the Jar”. Stevens writes about such an ordinary thing s a jar. He places the jar on a hill in Tennessee.
As he is looking at it, standing there alone in the wilderness, it became the center of everything, even the center of the whole universe. It takes dominion over the wilderness and gives meaning to the thing surrounding it. Before the jar was placed on the hill, the wilderness had no meaning, it just existed. Once the jar came into existence, the wilderness became important for the jar just as the jar is the most important thing in the universe. The jar is a part of the civilization and it began to civilize the wilderness.
Soon the wilderness loses its wildness and ferocity and becomes civilized under the influence of the jar. In the last part of the poem the author expresses the idea that even thought the jar had an ordinary, grey appearance, compared to the colorful wilderness, it did not care about the wilderness at all. Even though the jar was too ordinary, it wanted to dominate. This poem reminds us of the fact that in our eyes there are many things that represent the world for us but we have to realize that they are not the real world, just its reflection or a segment.
Even thought the jar as just one everyday thing that comes from the civilization, it became the center of the universe for the wilderness. Sometimes we are like the wilderness when we admire things we think are the most essential but in fact they are unimportant for us. We create something in our minds that dominates over us and influences us even though we do not necessary have to be “chose” the right thing to dominate over us. The last Stevens` poem I am going to look at is the poem called “Sunday Morning”.
In this poem we can clearly see Stevens` anti-Christian attitude towards religion. The poem is about the rejection of Christianity. It talks about a woman sitting in her chair on a Sunday morning. She is just sitting there, not getting dressed to go to church as everyone else does. She is placed in a calm, quiet setting of her home. The lady relaxes but her thoughts always keep turning towards religion. In a sense, she has bad conscience for not going to church. She thinks about the flood and the blood of Christ.
Stevens writes: “Shall she not find in comforts of the sun… ” (3), by which he means that she cannot rest and relax in the comfort of her home ecause her thoughts keep drifting away. By this quote he also suggests that she will not be able to find her comfort on earth but only in heaven. The woman also thinks about the Greek gods. She thinks that they are a lot closer to the humans because even though they were born in the heaven, they often came down from the havens and moved and lived among the people.
She thinks about Jesus Christ and meditates about his birth, that compared to the Greek gods he was born as a human being from a human being. The woman comes to a conclusion that Greek mythology was closer to the umankind than today’s Christian faith. Stevens creates a picture of Christianity disconnected with the real world. When the woman thinks more about it, she feels she lacks something. She feels the need for something permanent, for something she could hold to, something that would keep her safe and give her strength and support.
Another idea that the author develops in this poem is that life after death id not more important than the actual life. This idea opposes the Christian theory that makes people believe that the life after death is more valuable and more beautiful and that by living our earthly life we are reparing for ourselves the life we will live after we die. Stevens describes the beauties of nature and introduces the idea that even though the things that create beauty will die, beauty will never fade away, it will last forever.
He says that the earthly life is important even though it will not last forever. Another picture created in this poem is a picture of a pagan ritual. The pagan men dance and dance to the goddess of nature. They are human beings but are part of the nature, part of their goddess. They sing and glorify the beauty of nature and the world around them. They will die but hey are happy, they are enjoying their beautiful life on this earth, Stevens tried to create a picture of the world that would be if there was no Christianity.
Very interesting was the symbol of the tomb of Jesus Christ, that it is not a spiritual place, it is just a place, a tomb where a dead man’s body lied. Stevens` poem “Sunday Morning” contained anti – Christian images. T. S. Eliot was an author that integrated his religious faith into his poems. Sometimes it is very difficult to see this influencing factor but we can constantly feel the presence and an influence of “a higher being” in his oems. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” in my opinion resembles the philosophy of death.
The setting is very dark, dim, cheerless, discouraging, sullen, disheartening, dusky, dismal, and enigmatic. The characters are full of despair, weariness and confusion. It reminds me of Dante’s Inferno. The suffering of the characters is a never-ending circle. The poem could easily represent the picture of the post war world full of confusion and despair. Eliot uses examples of all the social classes in his poem. We can find the representatives of the upper class, the middle class and also the lower lass.
To characterize it, Eliot talks about the moral bankruptcy and corruption of the whole society and all of the social classes. Eliot uses the symbol of the wasteland – a dreary dessert with stony rubbish where nothing can ever grow. It is a place where God is absent, and because there is no God, there are no feelings in the wasteland. The spiritual desolation is symbolized in the traditional religious metaphor of drought. Even though the wasteland is pictured by a dessert, it is a symbol of a city, a crowded city. Eliot strongly feels the withdrawal of God from uman lives, from the society, from culture.
In my opinion, Eliot wanted to express that in the same way the wasteland needs water to be brought to it in order to bring back the fertility and the vegetation, the society needs Christianity. Eliot also uses the symbols of the quest for the Holy Grail, which in my opinion represents the human searching for God’s guidance and presence in their lives. In this essay I mentioned two types of post-war poets – Wallace Stevens, representing the group that has lost its Christian ideals after the War, and T. S. Eliot, whose faith is more visible in his works.