absence rather than of presence.
However, Eliot's Prufrock also seems to suggest thatthere is an element of communication that
capable of conveying an exact meaning: itsability to 'fix you in a formulated phrase'(p2291).
This language, if it can be called that, is not however, spoken. It is the language of the 'eyes'(p2291), the pre-articulated thoughts that Prufrock fears so much. Setting out toexplore this dichotomy between the pre-linguistic thoughts and spoken phrases is one of the key things that Eliot, in his poetry, sets out to do, and in doing so begins to critiqueSaussure's semiotic structure of language, and question its ability to facilitatecommunication: ' Signs are taken for words. "We would see a sign". The word within aword, unable to speak a word' (Eliot, 1940, p15)
.Eliot also seems to be arguing that thespoken language is rationally unable to express what is felt empirically, that spokenlanguage becomes the ability to merely 'murder and create' (p2290). This is demonstratedin Prufrock through the use of an almost Jack the Ripper-like feeling which pervades thetone of the entire poem. What articulated language murders then, is any reasonable hopefor communication of feelings, either to one another or between the diverse personas thateach of us carries within us. It is to this very fragmentation of self that the theme of TheWaste Land turns.If Prufrock is seen as Eliot's treatment of the failure of language in the microcosmof the subjective individual, then The Waste Land marks his attempt to expand his ideasto the macrocosm: universalising his theories. In The Waste Land he explores themultiplicity of the modern consciousness: the 'you' and 'I' of Prufrock become the
For more on Mallarmé and the contingency of language see: An anatomy of poesis: The prose poems of Stephane Mallarmé: See bibliography list.
( Similar to Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September, where Lois was reluctant to be 'clapped down' by anadjective, p60)
This line is taken from Gerontion, first published in 1920.