Dear Diana,I agree with everything here, but none of it comprises "a classical dramatic arc." That is the point I have tried to make. I also do not think time is an antagonist if the speaker never struggles against it as, for example, Prufrock tries to in the first section. Gerontion just sits, and he seems never to have done otherwise. The sheer fact of time and its impact is so constant in all Eliot that it can easily be pointed to as the source of despair and loss. But that is not, in itself, a dramatic event. Otherwise there would be no way to distinguish the dramatic from any lyric-voice poem about time. Think of all those Elizabethan sonnets bemoaning time's destruction. Are they, then, all classical drama?Cheers,Nancy>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]>02/21/10 5:58 PM >>>
The passage of time decays the house, brings darkness, death, and so on, as you are well aware. Time's tenses are a prominent feature of the poem's language: simple past, conditional future ("to be eaten"), ongoing present ("she gives when" implies "she always gives when").
Time twists through the poem in many convolutions. Every image in some way reflects time's effects.
I'm not sure there that conflict doesn't drive the lines implicitly. Eliot himself said an emotion can exert pressure on a poem from underneath, without being made explicit.
The tiger is not time; it's the escape from time, don't you think? Sometimes when I read the line it seems the speaker is looking to the tiger for release, that being devoured by the tiger would be welcome.
It's very rich in implications, as Eliot's work always is. I don't see it as lacking an agon.
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 17:36:22 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Gerontion'
To: [log in to unmask]
Yes, it is full of passive voice. And that is passivity. He does nothing. I do not see time as a force here against which he struggles. My point is that drama requires a protagonist and antagonist--whether inner or outer. If one is passive and never struggles, there is no drama in any traditional sense. There is futility. How do you see a connection between the passive voice and some active principle of time? Time does not act; it is. But even if history is a series of actions, Gerontion did not struggle, by his own claim--whatever "we" may or may not do.Eliot was not very old when he wrote all those poems about being old and empty--like Prufrock and the old man in "Dans le Restaurant," and many of them in IMH. Interestingly, there is intense drama in Sweeney Agonistes. And in a different way in "Portrait of a Lady." Even, internally, in "Prufrock," who, like Hamlet, questions and imagines alternatives and is anguished about what to do (even if he is not Hamlet in any sense of importance), in the first section. After the middle lines, the tense is past, and he ceases to think in terms of change.Nancy>>> Diana Manister 02/21/10 5:21 PM >>>
The poem is rife with passive voice. The gerontological allusions enlarge the passivity to the scale of a lifetime,
and its end. History is a function of time, so time is the active principle in the poem, against which we struggle in futility.
Some of the poem's passive phrases follow:
Being read to, waiting, My house is a decayed house, Swaddled with darkness,
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk,
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.
And an old man driven by the Trades To a sleepy corner.
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities
She gives when our attention is distracted
Eliot was not an old man when he wrote the poem, which lends a rich ambiguity to his meanings.
Dear Diana,It is clearly a lack of willed action, but what specific acting upon? Unless one means the appearance of Christ the tiger, I'm not sure what he claims acted on him--history perhaps, but then he only obsesses over its confusions; he shows no sign of having tried to affect it.Cheers,Nancy>>> Diana Manister 02/21/10 12:44 PM >>>
Dear Nancy,Gerontion is acted upon, wouldn't you say? The poem describes not an absence of action, but rather a lack of willed action.Diana
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On Feb 21, 2010, at 11:11 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:I already said that. There is no such arc in "Gerontion.">>> Peter Montgomery 02/21/10 5:11 AM >>>
If there is conflict, then there is drama, whether it be internal or external or both.P.----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Nancy GishSent: Friday, February 19, 2010 9:27 PMSubject: Re: 'Gerontion' -- the dramatic arcI 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.Nancy>>> 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 72-73]-----To me the monologue moves along the lines of a classical dramatic structure -- with an Exposition, a Rising Action, a Climax, and a Resolution.just an observationCR
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