Well, I once argued that it is monologic, though I didn't see that as
very positive. But it keeps altering for me, and I keep shifting my
response--a major reason it remains so interesting. I think that given
the instability of language you have discussed, it seems difficult or
perhaps impossible for Eliot to retain a single voice in a text of
fragments, including actual voices of other people and cuts and changes
by Pound and Vivienne and dream images from widely different parts of
his own life. It keeps escaping the bounds he tried to place around it.
Arguments for and against any resolution, even "of a kind," are endless.
I read TWL as monologic; words spoken by the poem's characters are
recollected by the narrator (whether N is TSE is another question.)
Where Joyce in the last chapters of Ullyses is truly polyphonic in that
no actual or implied narrator helps the reader form a coherent
point-of-view with regard to the speech of the characters, it seems to
me that TWL does imply that the events and conversational fragments of
TWL are recollected by a narrator and mix with his present nearly
hallucinatory perceptions as he surveys the devastated landscape left by
the war. The narrator's reflections occur in the poem's present.
Joyce's novel is also more open-ended and unresolved than TWL. The
epiphanies of TWL's narrator are apophatic, that is to say he proceeds
through negatives; his memories and present perceptions lead to the
conclusion that the meaning to be found in the urban environment is
almost completely unstable and contingent, death-bringing instead of
life-enhancing. Neither is the Romantic sublime of nature seen as an
option. TWL however is not without resolution of a kind. Its narrator
resolves to turn from unsatisfactory human society to search for meaning
that offers absolute meaning. "Shantih" represents N's realization and
commitment to the search for it, rather than its achievement.
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The Context of Marie ( Was Re: a Jeremiah sighting?)
Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2007 13:43:25 -0400
Diana, that assumes, first, that Eliot composed all this with a single
aim--highly questionable--and, second, that characters in the poem all
speak within the contemporary context--also highly questionable. Much
of it is remembered or can be read as thoughts in someone's mind. The
journey to Emmaus, for example, is not happening in 1921, nor is
Shakleton's expedition nor much else in allusions.
As Eliot was in Germany when the war began and had to get out in painful
circumstances, he knew that at first hand. But that was in 1914.
The poem was, as Aiken said, composed of many parts from many
periods--some at least as early as 1913. So even if he fit them into a
mosaic with all the conscious intention you see, they do not fit into a
single unified intention in their creation. I don't think they ever do,
but that is a different way of reading.
Nancy, Eliot knew full well by 1920 that the German empire had
effectively disintegrated. Marie's words are a kind of voice-over,
reminiscences of life in the Europe that had remained more or less
stable since the Napoleanic Wars. Her voice is heard as a soundtrack
while scenes of devastation are panned over. She might not have been
referring to the war when she spoke with Eliot (there already were
straws in the wind) but the poem's Marie, whose prototype readers were
not expected to know anything about, speaks in 1920 of life as a
privileged aristocrat in the pre-war German Empire. Diana