I think Sweeney is a very vividly defined personality even though he
emerges from several poems. "Character" need not always involve
development. Snopeses, for example, are very definite characters whose
character is precisely to be Snopeses. They don't change much, with
only a couple of exceptions, like Sarty. (And we've all learned the
new-critical distinction of "round" and "flat" character, so development
has been critically bracketed there.) I think in the sense of being a
fairly complex figure with more than emblematic presence, the young man
carbuncular may also be called a "character." There are many very
dramatic scenes in the early poems--especially, of course, "Sweeney
Agonistes," but that may also be seen as an early drama. But he has
strong, if fragmentary, qualities in "Sweeney Erect." It is a subject
of debate, no doubt, if Prufrock is really a character, but the poem CAN
be read as a dramatic monologue of a very detailed persona.
I think what I am getting at is that there is not so sharp a division as
seems to have been implied between a "character" in, say, a play, and
the figures who populate the poems.
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Nancy Gish wrote:
> On the other hand, I agree in general about "characters," but there
> some. I think Sweeney is a "character" even outside "Sweeney
> Agonistes." And I think Lil and her interlocutor are "characters."
> Perhaps the point is that at times Eliot's poems are dramatic or have
> dramatic sections, as "A Game of Chess" is.
"Character" does ordinarily evoke the question of "character
development," as in a novel or drama. And there is certainly not much of
that in Eliot's poetry. But it could be used simply to refer to an
reference to an agent (other than the poem's controlling voice), however
undramatized or undeveloped, that enters the poem. E.g.
In the room the women come and go
or the small house agent's clerk, or even the "loitering heirs of City
directors." Eliot's poems are often populated. I don't know what would
be accomplished by looking over characters so identified, but one never
knows. Walk-on parts as it were.