Morning at the Window by T. S. Eliot: Summary and Critical Analysis

'Morning at the Window' is an imagist poem that presents an image of poverty. The picture is that of a slum where people lead miserable lives. The speaker is at the window. He may be a visitor of a certain house in the area where poor people live. The images that come to his eyes are 'object correlatives' or objects corresponding certain ideas and emotions in the poet's and the reader's mind.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

The images in the poem correlate with the idea of poverty and feelings of sympathy. But the poem only presents them just the objective image, rather than romantically expressing his feelings and emotions. There is also a balance between feelings and ideas in the sense that the image arouses not only feelings in the reader but also provokes thoughts and ideas.

The poem is a set of striking images of poverty; the poet says nothing but shows them. The poor people are rattling (making a sound) breakfast plates early in the morning. It is an obligation for poor people to go to work early and work till late. Sun or shower, frost or fog, they have to set out early. The image brings to mind similar images of poverty. The speaker says that he is aware of the condition of the households' minds and souls, or their psychology. He doesn't describe that. Such housemaids are appearing one after another at the city gate. Maybe they come from villages. They have no identity, dignity and meaningful life. They are 'despondent', or extremely sad.

The speaker seems to go along, or else look further away waves of "brown" fog which come up to him. This is perhaps because the city air is so polluted. Twisted faces of depressed people pass by. A passerby has tears in the eyes. The speaker takes another glance and sees her dirty skirt. Another person comes up and tries to smile, but fails. The smile vanishes among the city roofs. All these disjointed images can be put together to build up a general picture of the poor people's plight. The focus is on poor servant girls whose souls themselves are "damp" (moist and dirt). The poet evokes our emotion without telling his emotions. He arouses pity without telling his pity for the people.

Eliot asserted that poetry must present 'objective correlatives' or objects and events that will correspond to certain emotions in the reader's experience. The poet need not express his personal emotion. This idea of poetry is anti-romantic. For instance, when we encounter objective images of poverty, we understand it. The image of a child on top of a burning house would need no explanation!

Eliot also strongly suggested that poetry must balance intellect, (thought) and emotion (feeling). The feelings of the individual poet must become a matter of thought for everyone in the poem. This balance is called 'unified sensibility'. The present poem presents only objective correlatives of poverty; the poet doesn't describe his feelings put presents objects that correlate or correspond to sympathy towards the poor. He balances the underlying feelings of pathos (pity) with a thoughtful mind and serous art. Eliot shows how personal emotion can be transformed into a universal thought-provoking image. Eliot also presents things as his impressions recorded them. The twisted face, the aimless smile, the eyes with tears, the muddy skirts are fragments of his impressions. The poet presents in the same way that these things made the impression on him. In this sense, the poem is impressionistic.

We can also call the whole set of images in the poem a symbol. The imagery is familiar and vivid. It can be said to symbolize poverty. The objective presentation of images makes the poem an Imagist poem. Its symbolic meaning and impressionistic viewpoint are also other important features of the poem. In short, such a presentation is unique, that makes the poem memorable and unique though the subject matter of poverty is very common.

The theme of the poem "Morning at the Window" is poverty. The poem presents a very human picture of poor people in the city slum. The poem presents a set of typical images that suggest poverty, depression, misery and squalor in the slums (poor and dirty areas of the cities) where the poor live. The poet also mentions the state of the souls of the housemaids. So the poem thematically includes the issues of poverty, depression and squalor in the lives of poor people in the city.

Perhaps more terrible than poverty is the problem of depression and distress with which the poor people in the pace live their lives. The damp souls of housemaids, the twisted face of a passerby, the tears in the eyes of a girl who is also wearing a muddy skirt, and the aimless smile of a person who tries and fails to smile are all indicators of sadness and frustration as well as poverty. Poor people can sometimes be happy, as in tribal villages. But here the problem of unhappiness seems to be even more terrible.

The people rattling breakfast plates early in the morning suggest the poverty of the people who have to go to work early. They are also living in the basements of houses for they cannot afford to live in better apartments. The very roads in those streets are trampled or torn. The speaker feels that the housemaids are down hearted and miserable. But for the city dwellers, the poor girls sprout out of nowhere at the gates of the city. The speaker then notices a set of several other images of poverty and dejection. He sees twisted faces of people who certainly have pain and distress. He sees a girl with tears in her eyes and a muddy skirt on her. Then someone passes by with an aimless smile. All these images are objective correlatives of poverty, which is the main theme of the poem.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Morning at the Window by T. S. Eliot: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 25 Nov. 2013,