Discovering Ones Human Nature TS Elliot Essay

, Research Paper A dark cloud has been hanging over the society’s mind, corrupting its morality and reasoning. People forgot that ideals are there to guide us instead of being achieved. The exaggerated emphasis on perfection has distorted the moral values as well as it has torn the already fragile link between the reason and the true human nature.

, Research Paper

A dark cloud has been hanging over the society’s mind, corrupting its morality and reasoning. People forgot that ideals are there to guide us instead of being achieved. The exaggerated emphasis on perfection has distorted the moral values as well as it has torn the already fragile link between the reason and the true human nature. Far from resembling the mere shadow of a complete human being, people walk through lives, miserable and bitter. They look with shallow hope to others to find the one responsible for their failures. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and T.S. Elliot’s poems such as “The Waste Land”, “The Hollow Men”, and “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” portray existence filled with moral and spiritual hollowness, disillusion with love and the deadening fear of facing one’s inner self. Hamlet, Shakespeare’s protagonist as well as the characters from Elliot’s works symbolize the decaying society, where death, becomes the saving grace from the day to day existence filled with suffering and personal hell. Lost in ineffective thoughts, the idle characters become paralyzed into a state of idleness and alienation. Yet, as forcefully grim the portrait of Shakespeare’s and Elliot’s society seems, the two authors do offer a salvation. To reach the saving grace one has to accept one’s human nature, and consequently, one has to admit to the proneness to err as well as one’s imperfection.

Assuming that the people in Elliot’s poems symbolize the deterioration of morality and spirituality, the poet’s main speaker and Hamlet become the same lost individual, male or female, which for the purpose of this essay shall be referred to as It. Once exposed to crudity of the surrounding world, the Its fragile mind is incapable of accepting the truth about human nature. This cruelly inflicted realization shatters Its idealism transforming into, as Johnson described it, the Fisher King Wound (2), brought upon by the “instinct and nature now suddenly having been touched by a vision of instinct and nature”(3). Disgusted with the filth and rottenness the individual discloses Its resentment towards the decaying human beings through Its wish “that this too too sallied flesh would melt/ Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!”(1, II, 129-130). This desire to part with the contaminated and intrinsically evil flesh stems from the deep-held belief that it entraps the idealistic and superior mind. Thus, Its suffering arises, yet, one is unaware that the source of the pain and self-destructing frustration rests at the roots of the divided self. Exalting the mind, It lacks an understanding of what It is and how does It fit into the grander scheme of existence, It “can neither live with the new consciousness {It} has touched nor can he entirely drop it”(Johnson 4). Consequently, the inner self and “nature is sacrificed by the mind”(Spender 160).

To further devour the It in the ocean of his bitter misery, the division of self creates a paralyzing fear of empty existence, where even love does not possess the once attributed intrinsic significance as a source of spiritual enrichment. Disillusioned by the futility of emotional wasteland, “the emotion [It] disengages from [Its] ugliest image is unbearably poignant”(Sinclair 153). The idealistic individual has attempted love, however, the object of affection did not fulfill the criteria of purity and perfection. Yet, It is too frightened of its own shortcomings. Instead of looking for the solution within the lost inner self, It asserts that “if his passion’s end is emptiness, then all passion is vain and without meaning”(Moody 191). The once cherished feminine becomes the “unweeded garden/ That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature”(1, II, 135-136). Furthermore, this results in the perversion of the beautiful practice of lovemaking. Sex becomes a physical ritual of quenching primal desires and thrills of the flesh. The precious gift of self for the purpose of fostering the spiritual richness of the significant other is lost and is replaced with “vanity [that] requires no response/ And makes a welcome of indifference”(Elliot, The Waste Land). This society truly becomes a wasteland, for there are no traces of emotion in either women or men. They lay “like [patients] etherized upon a table”(Elliot, The Love Song…). The dead response reemphasizes the emotional alienation brought upon by the panic-stricken fear of a void at the heart.

The emotional alienation is a part of Its defensive strategy to save what is left of its ideals of perfection, and according to It, such protection can be achieved only through complete isolation. To refute this honorable fight to save Its Ideals, one might say, that this social detachment is actually the Its “policy of conforming is really an ingenious method of saving himself”(Spender 160). Perhaps, the It thinks that the plan is perfect, yet, as far as reality is concerned, the individual is in severe denial. It, unable to coordinate its thoughts with actions, removes itself from the materialistic contamination, into the liberating world of pondering. It seems that thinking is more realistic to him than reality itself. However, if denial were the answer, It would not experience the petrifying personal torment of doubts and disgust. It detests the social superficiality of “the women [that] come and go talking of Michelangelo”(Elliot, The Love Song…), who praise the great beauty without even bothering to truly understand its message. Forester wrongly credits It with the audacity to feel “irritated by tea-parties, and is not afraid to say so”(157). Its criticism, though apt, exists but in the individual’s mind, for it has neither the freedom to act, since it limited itself to the intangible and futile world of the great abstract, not does it have the strength to stand up for himself. In reality, It is really a part of them “and his ambition seems to be, as he grows older, more and more ostensibly to ‘fit in’”(Spender 160). Ironically, the extensive effort to lift above the decay becomes an unconscious but desperate cry for order and a sense of belonging. It walks the “half-deserted streets/ The muttering retreats/ Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels”(Elliot, The Love Song…), as if this was the conscious choice of It. Yet, this itinerary lifestyle reveals that Its isolation is unsatisfying, for through those nights, It remains uncomfortably awake. Physically, It belongs to the world, yet, the frustration and hollowness keeps It painfully distant from it.

Such severe confusion and superficial isolation results in the inability to act upon the many deep thoughts. The fear of rejection dictates that to stay within the boundaries of the vast imagination brings greater gratification than manifesting Its existence in an active manner. Under the excuse of respecting the world order, It rationalizes that It “does not dare/ Disturb the universe”(Elliot, The Love Song…). Yet, this is a disguised prison, One cannot live outside reality, for thoughts are conditioned by what really exists. Obviously, the true reality will kill the naive idealism, yet, it will at the same time offer a solution. At this point, the It is a coward refusing to recognize Its slavery to a futile mind. It is “like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of [Its] cause/ And can say nothing…Am I a Coward?”(3, I, 549-551).

The loss of innocence and idealism destroys Its perception of itself. The individual becomes disoriented, for It has lost its place in the universal order, furthermore, the universal order has fallen itself. No longer a complete being, Its spiritual and moral values become hollow and meaningless. It, “shape without form, shade without colour/ Paralysed, gesture without motion”(Elliot, The Hollow Man), remains in a state of stagnation. It cannot seem to choose whether to live or die, so It remains idle. The indecisiveness of the “headpiece filled with straw…/quiet and meaningless”(Elliot, The Hollow Man) results from Its fear to face the reflection of his nothingness. Not committed to one set of believes, It wears ‘deliberate disguises…/ Behaving as the wind behaves”(Elliot, The Hollow Man) creating an existence without meaning or resolution, upon which no value can be placed. Afraid of dying, for It reached a point beyond damnation, rejects the new life. “April is the cruelest month”(Elliot, The Waste Land), for it disturbs the superficial contentment, forcing It to face to new and innocent life.

To reach the holy state of completion one must recognize who one is. Not a God, not even an idol, the individual has to come to terms with one’s nature. Ideals should not be discarded, but rather the person should recognize that they are to be aspired to, but never to be reached. Human imperfection is beautiful, for without it the criteria for good and evil would never be established, the boundaries would be blurred. The individual must reconcile with the misunderstood inner self. Remaining true to oneself, the person should reevaluate one’s spirituality and morality, for T.S. Elliot prophecies that it won’t be the physical destruction of the world, but rather the spiritual that will be our undoing. To be complete, one has to know oneself and be content with his nature, for only then will one catch a glimpse of the saving grace, that the ability to observe beauty in some isolated moments. Yet one cannot begin to comprehend the beauty without becoming part of that universe that offers the salvation.

Works Cited

Elliot, Thomas S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Rpt. In The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Revised Ed. M.H. Abrams, et. Al. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1968. 1773.

Elliot, Thomas S. “The Waste Land.” Rpt. In The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Revised Ed. M.H. Abrams, et. Al. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1968. 2266.

Elliot, Thomas S. “The Hollow Men.” The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962. 56.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press. 1994.