Thomas Stearns Eliot was not a revolutionary, yet he revolutionized the way the Western world writes and reads poetry. Some of his works were as imagist and incomprehensible as could be most of it in free verse, yet his concentration was always on the meaning of his language, and the lessons he wished to teach with them. Eliot consorted with modernist literary iconoclast Ezra Pound but was obsessed with the traditional works of Shakespeare and Dante. He was a man of his time yet was obsessed with the past. He was born in the United States, but later became a royal subject in England. In short, Eliot is as complete and total a contradiction as any artist of his time, as is evident in his poetry, drama, and criticism.
But the prevailing of his contradictions involves two major themes in his poetry: history and faith. He was, in his life, a self-described “Anglo-Catholic,” but was raised a Midwestern Unitarian in St. Louis. Eliot biographer Peter Ackroyd describes the religion of Eliot’s ancestors as “a faith [that] reside[s] in the Church, the City, and the University since it is a faith primarily of social intent, and concerned with the nature of moral obligations within a society. It place[s] its trust in good works, in reverence for authority and the institutions of authority, in public service, in thrift, and in success” (18). It is through Eliot’s insistence of these “moral obligations” that his didactic poetry gives us a glimpse of both his outwardly rejected faith and his inability to shun its tenets. He becomes, through his greatest poetry, a professor of that which he supposedly does not believe.
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…In “The Waste Land,” Eliot delivers an indictment against the self-serving, irresponsibility of modern society, but not without giving us, particularly the youth a message of hope at the end of the Thames River. And in “Ash Wednesday,” Eliot finally describes an example of the small, graceful images God gives us as oases in the Waste Land of modern culture. Eliot constantly refers back, in unconsciously, to his childhood responsibilities of the missionary in an unholy world. It is only through close, diligent reading of his poetry that we can come to understand his faithful message of hope.
Ackroyd, Peter. T.S. Eliot: A Life. New York: Simon
Catcher in the Rye Essay: Themes of Society and Growing Up
Themes of Society and Growing Up in The Catcher in the Rye
In reading J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, one is compelled to have a very strong reaction to the contents of the book. Whether that reaction is negative or positive, it is unquestionable that the reader will give the novel a second thought after reading it. There could be many reasons why this novel has such an impact on the readers. It may be the use of Salinger’s catchy slang phrases, bitingly sarcastic and usually negative, grabbing the attention of the reader. Another possibility is Holden, the novel’s subject and lead character. “He describes everything as ‘phony’, is constantly in search of sincerity, and represents the first hero of adolescent angst”(Belcher). Or, it could be the originality of the perspective the book takes on the popular theme of the right of passage and the experience of growing up. Most likely, it was the overall tone of the book that incorporated all of these factors and combined them to form an inventive story line with a believable plot.
Holden Caulfield, described in the book as around age sixteen, is a classic antihero type: full of negative opinions, rarely a gentleman, not exactly the best looking boy in his prep school, yet somehow deserving of some sympathy. Holden is a character who is said to be motivated by his hormones and his own personal opinions alone. Unfortunately for him, both of these aspects of his character often get him into trouble. However despite all of this, Holden is a character that most teenagers relate to in many ways because his feelings are genuine and problems easy to relate to.
When studying a piece of literature, it is meaningful …
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…d he was confused like everybody else. There is a line in the book where Holden actually says “I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.” One wonders how the author could get away with saying something like that, but then one realizes that in actuality it is refreshingly different and almost a relief. The theme of the novel was a message about society and growing up. For Holden and for many others, it is too much to ask to live in a world where you have to catch yourself before you fall.
Belcher, William F., and Lee, James E. J.D. Salinger and the Critics. 20th Sept. 1999
Davis, Robert Con, ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 56. Detroit: Gail Research Inc., 1989.
Stevenson, David. “J.D. Salinger: The Mirror of Crisis.” The Nation, Vol. 184, No. 10, March 1957, 215-17.