Prelude IV is the last installment of a four part series of poems from legendary poet T.S Eliot. Like most of Eliot’s writing, including the three other installments of the preludes, Prelude IV criticizes the modern world and the state of humanity living in it. The goal of this essay is to interpret the specific criticisms within the poem as well as analyse its structure as well as its semantics.
As previously stated, the core message of the entire Preludes is to criticize modern society and the status quo. Part IV, as with all poems from all poets, has numerous interpretations of the various elements within the poem. The word ‘soul’ in the first line, “His soul stretched tight across the sky,” can be taken literally as a reference to the ‘soul’ of the city within which the poem is set, or it can refer to, the sun. This particular interpretation is supported by the second and fourth lines, “That fade behind a city block” which depicts the sun setting behind a high rise building “At four or five and six o’clock” which are generally the time of sunset during the winter months. It is known that the poem takes place in the winter due to the opening line of the first installment of the preludes, “The winter evening settles down.” The fact that the speaker mentions numerous times of day and not merely the time of sunset on that particular day, is to reinforce the idea, that it does not matter what exact time it is, for the same observations can be made on any given day. The second line, “Or trampled by insistent feet” indicates individuals on their daily commute home, which leads into lines five and six, “And short square fingers stuffing pipes, And evening newspapers, and eyes (…)” which are images used to depict the commuters themselves. These two lines along with the extenuation in the seventh line begin what is to be the main criticism and the ultimate message that the speaker is trying to portrait with this poem:...
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