Carrol and CR:

Do you suppose it is significant to the scene in the poem that the players be members of the class that could afford such luxuries?

The section opens with a woman surrounded by luxury:

"In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid - troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours..."

Following this opulence is the chattering neruotic woman and what I take to be the thoughts of her companion thinking of rats alley where the dead men lost their bones and the eyes of the sailor, now pearls, his unexpressed reactions to her questions and demands. This is an upper middle-class couple following convention to the letter:

"The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess

The ivory men make company between us

Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door".

Immediately juxtaposed is the lower class speech of the pub:

"When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said--
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME"

Perhaps the juxtaposition of the affluent with the lower class is significant in that the affluent couple is no less happy, perhaps less so, than Lil and her husband. The ivory men echo nicely the ivory perfume vials. I wonder if the Indian origin of the game of chess is intended as an association that would resonate with the poem's Sanskrit passages. My faith in Eliot's precision makes me suspect these echoes and resonances are intended, but to what end I can only speculate. Diana

 




From:  cr mittal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: The ivory men
Date:  Fri, 29 Jun 2007 11:07:22 -0700

the irony of the "ivory men"
  
 
  
  
The "ivory men", then, could carry the connotation of  "luxuriant men"
  
and, in the context of the "game of chess"  (ref. Middleton's Women
  
Beware Women ), they could play foul.
  
 
  
  
Ah, in so short of a space of time, we have traveled far --
  
from Rickard Parker's plausible story of the chess set being
  
a wedding gift that could have come with an innocent and cordial
  
note, "The ivory men make company between us", to the portentous
  
aspect the "ivory men" wear on a live floor of chess.
  
 
  
And, all too soon, the "ivory men" become part of the poet's
  
"grouse against life", maybe.
  
 
  
O, let's not look too long at them.
  
Portentous in their demeanor, now-good-now-bad,
  
they do not bode well.  It could be a reason for
  
Vivien's  request to remove them.
  
 
  
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary,
  
to sweeten my imagination.
  
 
  
CR
  
 
  
 
  
Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
  
  
//a better arrow towards its (ivory's) probable use
  
is "luxury"//  (expensive ivory as opposed to cheap wood).
  
 
  
Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
  
  
  
  
Carrol, "slaughter of innocents" may be too strong, but Eliot would not have used "ivory" without an awareness that //the ivory trade involved
killing//. To me the fact that the pieces are ivory and not wood or marble or any other material he might have chosen adds // a bloody life-and-death tonality to the "game" played by Tom and Viv.//  Diana
  
 
  
Earlier, Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
  
  
  
Yes, expensive. Especially for the elephants. Eliot would have taken this resonance of the word into account. Ivory men are men who trade in ivory as well as chess pieces made from ivory. // A game of chess then includes the symbolic war taking place on the board and the
slaughter of innocents.// Diana


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