T.S Elliot: Threatening Women
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Threatening Women
A reoccurring theme in much of Eliots 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. Eliots 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 Eliots 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 Eliots 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 theyre having sex and hang around the door gossiping. This is the literal meaning, however when looked into further theres 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 its like hes 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 Poems 36).” You sense his threat of women more when he describes the women out side the door listening to this thinking that Sweeney and this woman are having sex. Eliot writes, ” The ladies of the corridor/ Find themselves involved, disgraced/ Call witness to their principles/ And deprecate the lack of taste (Selected Poems, 37).” The women outside gossiping seem dangerous to Eliot. Most likely this insecurity about women is a result of his past relationships.

Another example of Eliots poetry that shows Eliots disturbance with women is “The Wasteland” part II. In part II of “The Wasteland” Eliot is describing this conversation between a man and a women. The women keeps badgering the man with questions and the man keeps giving these curt responses. Eliot writes, “My nerves are bad

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Eliots Poetry And Eliots Usage. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from https://www.freeessays.education/eliots-poetry-and-eliots-usage-essay/