Creator / T. S. Eliot

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 1888 4 January 1965) was a poet, raised in America but who lived his adult life in England. The Waste Land is his most famous poem.

One of his lighter works, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, inspired the musical Cats.

Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is one of the single most quoted works of Western literature.

Works by Eliot with their own trope pages include:


Other works by Eliot provide examples of:

  • Bathos: This is used frequently in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", starting with comparing a sunset to "a patient etherised upon a table".
  • A Chat with Satan: In the first act of Murder in the Cathedral, Becket is visited by "tempters" who plead with him to give up his feud with the King of England. The first tempts him with hedonistic pleasures, the second with a restoration of his former authority, the third with political power. He rejects them all, but the fourth tempter surprises Becket by asking him to seek out martyrdom, and be glorified as a saint long after his death. Becket has to reconcile his moral stance with his own selfish desire to be justified in the hereafter. In most productions, the fourth tempter is presented as being separate, more enticing than the first three, and possibly the Devil in disguise.
  • Close-Knit Community: Discussed in "Choruses from The Rock"
  • Dances and Balls: Described in "East Coker".
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The first few lines of the last stanza of "The Hollow Men":
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o'clock in the morning.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Aside from inspiring many of these, Portrait of a Lady is a reference to a novel by Henry James.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: "The Journey of the Magi" is a reminiscence, many years after the fact, of one of the three magi ("wise men") who travelled westward across Asia in search of the Christ Child at the first Christmas. After finding and visiting the baby Jesus, he returns home to find that his former pagan beliefs no longer satisfy him, and that he suddenly feels spiritually unfulfilled. He never grasped the significance of what he saw, and has become so depressed that "I should be glad of another death."
  • One-Book Author: More like maybe three/four-book-author. Eliot is best known for being a poet, but his Collected Poems 1909-1962 is a very short volume and, of it, most people know only "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Waste Land". A good few people know the cat poems. Some people have read Four Quartets, a later poem, long by Eliot's standards, but not very long. A few people have read, or maybe seen, Murder in the Cathedral. As for his other plays, such as The Rock, The Cocktail Party and The Elder Statesman; his other poems, including collections of his juvenilia which are longer than his actual Collected Poems; his many essays on literary subjects, including important ones on Rudyard Kipling, Dante Alighieri, and Charles Baudelaire, as well as massively influential pieces such as "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and collections of articles such as After Strange Gods and For Lancelot Andrewes; loads of book reviews; stand-alone books such as Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F.H. Bradley, Notes Towards a Definition of Culture and The Idea of a Christian Society, not to mention six volumes (and counting) of his letters, which themselves form a picture of the literary history of his time and place...well, most of it doesn't get read.
  • Shout-Out: Eliot turned this Up to Eleven. Many of his poems don't just allude to previous works, but are skilful collages of actual quotes from previous works, from Dame Julian of Norwich via various Tudor divines to Baudelaire, Richard Wagner, music hall songs and other sources. Eliot's genius was to make all his Shout Outs sound like they belonged to one voice.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
  • Sophisticated as Hell: The unpublished-in-his-lifetime The Triumph of Bullshit is the most conspicuous example, but The Waste Land also counts, ranging from barely-paraphrased Shakespeare to overheard gossip from London pubs.
  • Stepford Smiler: J. Alfred Prufrock attends parties and formal events to try to be accepted by his peer group but ultimately feels dead inside, and that he has never done anything significant with his life.

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