T.S Elliot: Threatening Women Essay

This essay has a total of 1196 words and 5 pages.

T.S Elliot: Threatening Women

Threatening Women
A reoccurring theme in much of Eliot's poetry is the figure or figures of threatening
women. Eliot includes his intimidation of women in a lot of poetry he writes. However,
with some of his later poetry his feeling towards women changes. He goes from fearing them
and feeling threatened to almost celebrating them. When comparing his work in "The
Wasteland" to his work in "Marina" you can definitely sense a change in his feelings.
Could this change in his poetry be a result of his estranged relationship with his first
wife and the beginning of a happy one with his second? Being that a lot of his poetry was
based on his relationships with women this notion is quite possible when delving further
into the meaning of his poetry. Eliot's usage of threatening women in his poetry changes
as his relationships with women changes.

To get a better understanding of this one must understand the relationship between Eliot
and the women in his life. Vivien Haigh-Wood was his first wife. He met Vivien in 1915 and
married her that same year. Neither of their parents knew of the courtship. She was of the
English upper-middleclass. She was very intelligent and lively, but she was also very
unstable, unknown to Eliot. From the start neither one of them could understand the other
(T.S Eliot par.7). Vivien was extremely controlling and jealous, and embarrassing to take
out socially. She drained Eliot with her constant illness and nearly drove him to a
nervous breakdown (par. 9). Vivien was in and out of mental hospitals from 1928 and on.
Then in 1932 Eliot was offered a job lecturing at Harvard. He saw this as his chance out
of his unhappy marriage. So he went to the United States and filed for a legal separation
from Vivien (par.13). In 1947 Eliot was shattered by the news that Vivien had passed away
in a private mental hospital (par.15).

Eliot met his next love interest in 1949. She was his secretary at Fabres, her name was
Valerie Fletcher. After working with her for 8 years he finally proposed in 1956 (T.S
Eliot par.17). They were married in 1957. Valerie was only 30 and Eliot was 68. Not many
of his friends stopped him from this happiness. He told friends, "I am the luckiest man in
the world." He was very jolly during this time in his life (par.18). When looking at
Eliot's relationship with women one can see why they are so threatening to him in his
poetry, and why the change occurs.

His earlier poetry gives an insightful glimpse into this part in Eliot's life. One poem
that gives an example of this is "Sweeney Erect." The poem is /about a woman who is having
an epileptic seizure on the bed, while this grotesquely described character, Sweeney, is
shaving. Meanwhile outside the door the women in the house think they're having sex and
hang around the door gossiping. This is the literal meaning, however when looked into
further there's more to it. Eliot is painting a disturbing sexual scene that is derived
from his ideas about sex and women. The title itself is an example of this "Sweeney
Erect." When he describes her having the epileptic seizure it's like he's describing an
orgasm. He describes it like this, "Jackknifes upward at the knees/ Then straightens out
heel to hip/ Pushing the framework of the bed/ And clawing at the pillow slip (Selected
Continues for 3 more pages >>

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