Words can be actions in any context and by anyone. But the anguish of Gerontion is precisely inaction. His entire monologue is about his failure to have acted or lived and to be left merely an internal and desensitized shell. So if one were to read it as an action, there would have to be an "arc" of feeling or experience that in some way paralleled plot. That is not present in the passages quoted or, I think, in the poem itself. He is not engaged in a changing experience or a dramatic movement: he is looking back from a position of emptiness, even an evacuation of the senses.
If we are to understand Eliot at all, or any poet, we must first read exactly what is there. So I am not denying that there can be action in words. An excellent example might be "My Last Duchess," where there is clearly an inner drama. But I would be interested in how you find drama in "Gerontion," where such an inner movement is not present. The poem demonstrates the horror of stasis.
>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]
> 02/20/10 7:30 AM >>>
In Eliot words are actions. The monologue does describe an arc, so it is
not difficult to see it constituting a dramatic action.
Nancy Gish wrote:
> I do not understand how this can be a "classical dramatic structure"
> when it states the opposite. That structure is a description of an
> action: it refers to plot. And the central point Gerontion describes
> is precisely that he has not acted. He was not at the hot gates; he
> is old and simply waiting. He says "we have not reached conclusion"
> [i.e., no climax or denoument]. He speaks only of endless "small
> deliberations"--thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season." Classical
> drama is about acting and its consequences. There is no action
> depicted in the lines you quote.
> When Eliot turned to drama--even in the early /Sweeney Agonistes/--he
> showed actions. I do not see the point of what you call an
> observation that cannot apply in this case.
> >>> Chokh Raj 02/19/10 11:05 PM >>>
> 'Gerontion' - the dramatic arc
> Here I am, *an old man in a dry month*, [line 1]
> I *an old man, // /A dull head among windy spaces *[lines 15-16]
> I have no ghosts / *An old man in a draughty house / Under a windy
> knob*. [lines 30-32]
> And *an old man driven by the Trades / To a sleepy corner*. [lines
> To me the monologue moves along the lines of a classical dramatic
> structure -- with an Exposition, a Rising Action, a Climax, and a
> just an observation