Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot


Both of the poets, Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot wrote their works in the difficult, post war years. The whole society was in a shock from the experience it gained in the war. The world has become a complete chaos. To the generation that wasted their best years of youth in the passed war, it was a shock to discover the instability of the world, of the country, of the nation they have fought for. They fought in the war because of their belief that they were doing the right thing and suddenly they realized that the dream they have fought for was just an illusion.


The society was shattered. People lost their dreams and illusions of a better and just world. This disillusionment is very well seen in the works of the poets of this period. This decade was full of cynicism, irony, and a toughness of mind. The works are full of symbols of emptiness, deprivation, solitude, chaos, death, desperation, hopelessness, void, loneliness, and confusion.


In this essay, I am going to concentrate on the works of two great poets, Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot.


Wallace Stevens wrote about ordinary everyday things that people usually do or that surround them. The poems of Wallace Stevens evoke the feeling of peace, calmness, stillness, quietness and ease but when we look at them closer, they contain the elements of disorder and disillusionment. An example can be seen in Stevens` poem “Disillusionment of Ten O`Clock”. Even when we look at the name of the poem, we can see that “disillusionment’’ is the key word of the poem.


“Disillusionment” seems to be saying that the people who wear white night - gowns (and are always in bed by ten o`clock!) are disillusioned in the sense that they are deprived of the “illusions” that a healthy imagination creates.


The poet is playing here with the irony implicit in a situation where people live their daily lives having various illusions, yet have no illusions and imaginations when it comes to sleeping. All of hem wear white night – gowns, which shows how all of them want to fit in, how they want to be part of the crowd, their night – gowns representing some kind of uniforms.


Stevens plays with the color white, when he says that they are like ghosts: “The houses are haunted by white night – gowns.” (1) By this symbol he did not refer just to the “spooks” but he also meant that their minds are completely blank, with no own ideas and creativity. They are not going to dream about “baboons and periwinkles”. (2) They are not capable of dreaming of such extraordinary things.


The only “extraordinary” person in this poem is the old sailor, who as the only one dares to dream “in color” because he did not live a boring, ordinary life but an exciting one. He is not a part of the mass of people that lead the preordained lives of the materialistic society.


Another Stevens` poem that I am going to look at is the poem called “Anecdote of the Jar”. Stevens writes about such an ordinary thing


as a jar. He places the jar on a hill in Tennessee. As he is looking at it, standing there alone in the wilderness, it became the center of everything,


even the center of the whole universe. It takes dominion over the wilderness and gives meaning to the thing surrounding it. Before the jar was placed on the hill, the wilderness had no meaning, it just existed. Once the jar came into existence, the wilderness became important for the jar just as the jar is the most important thing in the universe.


The jar is a part of the civilization and it began to civilize the wilderness. Soon the wilderness loses its wildness and ferocity and becomes civilized under the influence of the jar. In the last part of the poem the author expresses the idea that even thought the jar had an ordinary, grey appearance, compared to the colorful wilderness, it did not care about the wilderness at all. Even though the jar was too ordinary, it wanted to dominate.


This poem reminds us of the fact that in our eyes