T.S Eliot and Woolf- Urban Anxieties

In: Novels

Submitted By simonscheeres
Words 2946
Pages 12
Give a critical account of the approach taken by any one or two Modern writers depiction of urban life

‘Why do I dramatise London so perpetually’ Woolf wondered in the final months of her life. This essay will seek to examine Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Eliot’s The Waste Land to observe their perpetual fascination with expressing metropolis as a vision of modernity. It will attempt to scrutinize the overwhelming nature of urban life, urban life’s effect on humanity, metropolis being the forefront of society, and also the depiction of a single urban consciousness. Through examining these depictions of urban life, this essay aims to observe the effects rapid urbanisation had on the modern movement and its respective authors.

Woolf presents Mrs Dalloway’s consciousness as a vessel to voice the overwhelming nature of urban life and the problem of anxiety experienced in modern metropolis. Immediately in the first paragraph Clarissa’s anxieties are voiced as she embarks to the city to prepare for her party. Clarissa’s consciousness jumps to her memory of a ‘girl of eighteen’ and the solemn and ‘feeling that something awful was about to happen’. The contrast to her feeling of excitement to a feeling of anxiety is stark. The protagonist begins by exclaiming ‘how fresh how calm’ and then to experiencing feeling threatened as her attention reverts from the natural to the ‘uproar of the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans… she loved; life; London’. Woolf plunges the reader into Mrs Dalloway’s consciousness, where the protagonist experiences both awe and anxiety at the spectacle of the metropolis. The writer achieves this sense of nervous excitement through the manipulation of syntax, alliteration and the sheer denseness of Clarissa’s observations. Sandwich men ‘shuffling and swinging’, ‘brass bands and barrel organs’ overwhelm the reader as Clarissa remarks on their…...

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