Analysis of T. S. Eliot's East Coker

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Analysis of T. S. Eliot's East Coker

The early poetry of T. S. Eliot, poems such as "The Wasteland" or "The Love Song

of J. Alfred Prufrock", is filled his despair of the human condition. Man is a

weak soul, easily tempted and filled with lusts, who has no hope of redemption.

These views of man did not change when Eliot converted to Catholicism. Eliot

still maintained man's desperate plight, but supplemented that belief with the

notion that man has some hope through the work of Christ. This expanded view

first appeared with the publication of "Burnt Norton" in 1935. From this poem,

Eliot built a delicately intricate set of Christian devotional poems, Four


The second of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, "East Coker", is the poet's

reflection on the English village in which his ancestor Sir Thomas Elyot wrote

The Governour, and from which Andrew Elyot embarked for the New World (Blamires

41). Eliot understood poetry to be a series of images, phrases, and feelings

deposited into the consciousness of the poet and then fused together to form

something new (Eliot 55). Often, this collection is unified by a device that has

little to do with the actual emotions that are the subject of the poem. In "East

Coker," the village in Somersetshire is only a departure point for two

discussions. The primary issue is the determinism that governs man's activities

and ultimately makes a failure of all his pursuits. The second issue is like the

first: that the poet's words fail in their attempts to elucidate the problem of

determinism. Eliot prefaces Four Quartets with the words of Heraclitus: "The way

up an...

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relevant experience for twentieth-century man, all seem abundantly clear in his

poems. What was the "private insight" of the poet that remains ineffable?

Works Cited

Blamires, Harry. Word Unheard: A Guide through Eliot's Four Quartets. London:

Meuthen & Co. Ltd., 1969.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. "Tradition and the Individual Talent," from The Sacred

Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. London: Meuthen & Co. Ltd., 1920.

The Four Quartets. London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1943.

Gardner, Helen. The Composition of Four Quartets. London: Faber and Faber, 1978.

Murray, Paul. T. S. Eliot and Mysticism: The Secret History of the Four

Quartets. London: Macmillan, 1991.

Reibetanz, Julia Maniates. A Reading of Eliot's Four Quartets. Ann Arbor: UMI

Research Press, 1970.
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