Although decadence is prevalent throughout the poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot, but it also diverges from it. Decadence means the tawdry subject matter, having low morals, and being only interested in pleasure.
This poem has many portions of which Eliot uses decadence to conceptualize his story, but majorly Eliot uses Prufrock interest in pleasure. Prufrock describes his experience of what can be preceded as a one night stand, “Let us go then, you and I/ Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, /The muttering retreats/ Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/…Streets that follow like a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent” (1,9). It seems as though Prufrock is with someone and is interested in having pleasure with them. Also, the lines “like a patient etherized upon a table” can mean explicitly mean that they are having sex (2). The word etherize means to make numb, while in this excerpt it can directly mean about their “restless night.” While Eliot uses decadence throughout his story, he also strays from it.
Eliot diverges from decadence by Prufrock becoming interested in his future. Prufrock says, “I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;/ I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, / And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, / And in short, I was afraid” (83,86). This shows that Prufrock begins to think about how his future will ultimately materialize. He already precedes that his future is not going to be glorious, and frightful.
Friedrich Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”, shows how laborious working class members are the main reason of industry, but they are not given the bare essentials. Engels uses both Enlightenment and Romanticism ideals, in conveying his visualization of the Machine Age in England.
Engels uses Enlightenment ideals to portray the hardships put upon the working class. He depicts the terrible conditions in which the working class had to live through, “Indeed no one can blame these helots of modern civilization if their homes are no cleaner than the occasional pigsties which are a feature of these slums (pg. 1107).” Engels connects the houses of the working class with pigsties because of all the filth and trash that they are surrounded in. This shows how the working class are living in unorthodox methods. Engels does not blame the working class because he knows that they are forced to live this way of life. Engels says that, “Capital is the all-important weapon in the class war … the poor, having no capital, inevitably bear the consequences of defeat in the struggle (1102).” Engels logically points out the real reason the working class was not able to prosper in England. Capital is the main component to which the wealthy kept, and gave very little to the workers. Thus making it hard for the workers to develop their own infrastructure. Engels reasons that the working class should be given proper living areas, and not be cast aside like pigs. He connected his ideology to what was happening in England, to prove his point.
Engels also uses Romantic ideals to exemplify England’s economic boom. Engels is awe struck by the natural beauty of London, “I know nothing more imposing than the view one obtains of the river when sailing from the sea to the London Bridge (1101).” He is captivated the scenery of the river, so much that he cannot contain his feelings for nature. But as Engels travels around England he realizes, “It is only when he has visited the slums of the great city that it dawns upon him that the inhabitants of modern London have had to sacrifice … (1102).” Engels notices that outside view of England is the sublime of nature, but the core is full of industries urbanized areas. The slums showed him the reality of how the Machine Age can alter nature, and make it inhabitable for people. Engels uses Romantic ideology to contrast how England looks inviting to the eye at first, but its core is made up of hardships and sorrow.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” expresses how women are being oppressed and denied their potential in society. Wollstonecraft writing can be characterized primarily enlightenment, because she argues that women, like men, have the ability to cultivate the minds to think logically and critically. In chapter two, she exemplifies in detail the various ways in which women are rendered subordinate. They are taught that their looks are of primary concern, and always artificiality appear to be pleasing to others. She uses facts and statistics to prove that women are being psychologically brainwashed, “Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience (…) will obtain for them the protection of man” (295). This excerpt shows that these women are being mutilated into becoming senseless dolls. Meaning that their upbringing from the moment women enter the world is oriented toward making them weak, submissive, and dependent upon men. Wollstonecraft is using the ideals of enlightenment to let people know that education is a way for women to put an “end to [the} blind obedience” by “strengthen[ing] the female mind by enlarging it” (299). Profoundly Wollstonecraft logically describes that education can make women burden free and have a place in society.
The poem “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” by Wordsworth, differs with the Enlightenment sensibility as the poem is majorly influenced by the idea of harmonizing with nature. It describes how life with nature, prevails the young boy’s previous life within society. Where this young boy sets upon a place far away from his providence to be intertwined with nature. The young boy sails to his adventure and sees, “This lonely yew-tree stands/ Far from all human dwelling (lines 1-2).” The young boy accepts the isolated island, away from all interaction from humans or urbanization. In lines 15-17 it states, “With big with lofty views … went forth, pure in heart against the taint,/ Of dissolute tongues, ‘gainst jealousy, and hate,/ And scorn, — against all enemies prepared,/ All but neglect.” This shows how the boy disregarded all the problems and negativity that came from living in society and embraced nature. The boy came to a realization that with nature, there is nothing fear but there is everything to embrace.
All in all the poem describes the life of a young boy living away from the ideals of the Enlightenment sensibility. It shows how logic and reason are not always how people embodied their decisions, but through emotions as well. This poem explicitly shows rejection of the Enlightenment sensibility, and the acceptance of Romanticism.