The Poet in the Poem: The Personae of Eliot, Yeats, and Pound

By George T. Wright | Go to book overview
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Eliot: The Transformation of a Personality

To UNDERSTAND the personae of any writer we must first have an idea of the characters who inhabit the world of his poetry, for it is from these characters that the personae, the speakers, will be drawn. Some writers, perhaps because of the genres they usually explore, use few characters, others use many; some use vaguely defined people, others define them with great precision; some poets change their tactics in the course of their career, greatly increasing or decreasing the number or the exactness of their people, without usually abandoning the qualities that hold all the characters together. For every poet we sense a range of persons who represent in part the poet's view of human life.

Probably on no other score has Eliot's work been so condemned as for its choice and treatment of people. Yet the number of characters who, directly or by immediately understood allusion, make their way into his poems is phenomenal. Because of the peculiar allusive structure of his verse, it is difficult to draw a line between who is and who is not actually in his poems. In one sense, only the old man, his boy, and his housekeeper inhabit the world of "Gerontion"; in a second sense, it is inhabited also by the jew, Christ, Mr. Silvero, Hakagawa, Madame de Tornquist, Fräulein von Kulp,

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