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Collected Poems, 1909-1962 Characters

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Collected Poems, 1909-1962 Summary & Study Guide Description

Collected Poems, 1909-1962 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Collected Poems, 1909-1962 by T. S. Eliot.

J. Alfred Prufrockappears in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Prufrock is a man in the the later years of life. He is a decent, nondescript sort of man, and it's apparent he is past the vivacity of youth. He is thinner and losing his hair and he feels self-conscious about this. He is not the virile man he was in his youth when he was a pursuer of women. Now he feels he has no charms with which to interest a woman. He spends his days in repetitive monotony, and as he says, he measures his life in coffee spoons. He is a man of indecision, and this is a trait exhibited throughout his life. He never took the risks and chances he wished he did - whether in career or love. He yearns for the sensual, carefree days of youth and the desire of women. He knows he always deferred to others at the expense of his advancement in society and at the expense of his opinions. Now in old age, he regrets not being a decisive, strong-willed, proactive member of society. He wishes he could arouse passion in the opposite sex, that they would find him attractive once again and a person of action. He realizes he missed many opportunities in life and that there will not be any dramatic change in his life at this stage of his existence.

Eliot shows us, with Prufrock, what the costs are of not attacking life with boldness and zeal. He portrays Prufrock as a man who went along for the ride as a passenger in life and not the person planning, organizing, and navigating the road as a doer and initiator of action.

The Ladyappears in Portrait of a Lady

The Lady of this poem is a woman of means, who is getting older. She is respectable, dignified, and mannerly. She is a well-read and traveled woman. She has lived a life of varied experience and had attentions from men, but she still seems unfulfilled and lonely. The man in the poem, who visits her, is someone she desires to have a deeper relationship with, although his feelings are not the same. He does not want to pursue the relationship any further, to her dismay. The reader senses in her a yearning for love beyond just the physical. There are hints that he is younger than she is and that they have enjoyed a physical, but not a true loving, relationship. She is a woman of restraint, who will not push a conversation beyond the breaking point to where it erupts into an argument. She with poise, states her wishes politely. In her restraint, her deep desires come through even clearer, as the reader senses her bottled-up emotions.

The Lady exemplifies an upper-class society, where proper behavior is of paramount importance and any display of heart-rending emotion is best left for times alone. Decorum and etiquette control her discourse with the man so that she never really lets her true emotions and feelings out. In the end, her need for love is left unsatisfied, and she will resume her days entertaining friends with tea and polite conversation.

The Manappears in Portrait of a Lady

The man of this poem is a man who, out of common decency and proper social etiquette, continues to visit an older woman of whom he has some sort of relationship. He is uncomfortable in her presence. The reader senses he may have had a physical relationship in the past with her and that she wants to further the relationship with him. He wants to pursue his own passions and does not really want to involve himself with her any longer. His visits are marked by strained, general conversation. When she tries to delve deeper into his psyche, he bristles and puts up barriers to further questioning. The reader sees a man ready to move on to greater conquests in life and hence his decision to go abroad, although the reader also senses that this may be his out to any further dealings with the woman.

Eliot portrays a man who is respectful of the Lady and her position in society, while at the same time is guarded as to her designs on him. We see a man who wants to pursue other adventures in life, whether personal, business, or academic. He does not want to be beholden to any woman of position, preferring to keep his options open.

Aunt Helenappears in Aunt Helen

Aunt Helen, now deceased, is the central character of this poem. Her niece talks of her life, and the reader senses the great love and respect the niece had for this woman. This is signified by her statement that there was silence in heaven when her aunt died. We see that Aunt Helen was well off as she had servants who cared for her. We get even more of a sense of Aunt Helen's character from the housemaid sorrowing over her death. The reader can see that Aunt Helen was a woman of class and dignity, of whom people thought highly.

Miss Nancy Ellicottappears in Cousin Nancy

In Cousin Nancy, we see a woman who goes against accepted norms of behavior. She's a smoker at a time when it wasn't common to see a woman smoke. She danced and lived a spirited life and all this to the dismay of her more stoic, reserved aunts.

Mr. Apollinaxappears in Mr. Apollinax

Mr. Apollinax is a man that lives life on his own terms. He laughs freely, speaks what is on his mind boldly, and generally is free-spirited in other people's company. He is such a colorful character that people remember him long after meeting him, while at the same time remembering little of others of more staid personality.

Old Manappears in Gerontion

The man in this poem is one who ponders the great questions of life. He, in his old age, examines all he has said and done and concludes it is all futile without faith. He is a man capable of deep thought and now realizes he lost his passion for the truth. He also realizes that if he would have held to the truth he believed, he would have been too weak to uphold it and would have made compromises in his life out of fear of what others thought of him. We see that this man is capable of being very honest with himself about the reality of his life.

Sweeneyappears in Fragment of an Agon

Sweeney is a man who grasps life with a voracious sensual appetite for all it has to offer. He is a go-getter and one who believes you just live each day fully without undue worry. He loves Doris and wants to engage in a full, passionate life on all levels with her. He says life is birth, copulation, and death...and that is the gist of it all... to him you live life with vigor and let the chips fall where they may.

Dorisappears in Fragment of a Prologue

Doris is a woman who lives life based on signs that she feels are her directions and guideposts for life. She is a woman who is unable to give herself over to a life of unbridled enjoyment of things as she always resorts to fretting and worry. When a suitor tries to make contact with her by telephone, she does not have the courage to talk to him by herself, instead having a friend do her talking for her. She resorts to card reading to try to decipher what her future holds.

Dustyappears in Fragment of a Prologue

She is Doris' friend and the woman Doris uses to talk to the suitor to whom she does not want to talk. Dusty is a person of the same ilk as Doris. They engage in idle banter and live their lives according to pre-conceived conclusions based on superstitions. They do not allow themselves the luxury of risk-taking.

Snowappears in Fragment of an Agon

Friend of Sweeney, who accompanies him to visit Doris and Dusty.

Swartappears in Fragment of an Agon

Friend of Sweeney, who accompanies him to visit Doris and Dusty.

The Rockappears in Choruses from

The Rock of this poem is Jesus Christ.

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