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Morning at The Window [Poem] Summary & Analysis

'Morning at the Window' by T. S. Eliot depicts the impressions of the lyrical voice as he looks outside his window and observes the streets. 'Morning
Summary & Analysis of the Poem Morning at The Window
Summary & Analysis of the Poem Morning at The Window

Summary of The Poem

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. The images that come to his eyes are 'object correlatives' or objects corresponding to certain ideas and emotions in the poet's and the reader's mind.

The poem is about the miserable life of slum people. The speaker from his window could imagine emotionally the poverty of the people who lead a depressing life in the slum and their feelings. The poor people make sounds with their plates early in the morning.  They have to go to work early and work till late so as to earn to feed the family.  Sun or rain frost or fog they have to go early to work.  He brings out the plight of the housemaids who come to the city with no identity and life.  They are unfortunate.  No smile on their faces.  Their smile vanishes over their roofs.

The poor people are rattling (making 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 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. They have no identity, dignity or meaningful life. They are ‘despondent’, or extremely sad.

The speaker seems to go along, or else look further away from 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 their 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.

Morning at The Window

They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

Analysis of the Poem Morning at The Window

The first stanza describes the day-to-day life of the poor people of the slum.  The speaker says he could hear the sounds of the plates in the morning in the kitchens in the basements as they have to go to work early.  They have to go to work early and work so hard to feed the family.  The poet feels for them emotionally.   The agony of the housemaids walking slowly down the edges of the street reveals their painful life.  They with no enthusiasm come off the gates. 

The second stanza describes the passersby from the window.  The poet is at the window and watches the passersby.  A gloomy place covered with pollution shows the painful faces now and then from the bottom of the street, a person with muddy skirts with no smile passes by.  The smile has been from everyone who struggles hard daily.  The smile has been ripped off even from their roofs. 

Interpretation

The focus is on poor servant girls whose souls themselves are “damp” (moist and dirt). He arouses pity without telling his pity for the people. The poem presents only objective correlatives of poverty; the poet doesn’t describe his feelings but presents objects that correlate or correspond to sympathy towards the poor. He balances the underlying feelings of pathos (pity) with a thoughtful mind and serious 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, and the muddy skirts are fragments of his impressions.

Background

Eliot expresses the fragile psychological state of humanity in the twentieth century. Modernist writers wanted to capture their transformed world, which they perceived as fractured, alienated, and denigrated. Europe lost an entire generation of young men to the horrors of the so-called Great War, causing a general crisis of masculinity as survivors struggled to find their place in a radically altered society. Humanity’s collectively damaged psyche prevented people from communicating with one another, an idea that Eliot explored in many works, including “A Game of Chess” (the second part of The Waste Land) and “The Hollow Men.”

Theme

The theme of the poem is poverty. 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 life. 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.

Literary Devices in Morning at The Window

In the first stanza, the poet starts with the sound effect, onomatopoeia for example the sounds of the plates in the kitchen located in the basement. In “Rattling breakfast plates” the poet brings visual imagery of the rush of their work so the readers could realise the hard struggle of their life. The first letter in the breakfast, the basement is the use of alliteration which gives an effect to feel.  “And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts” readers could visualize the state of the poor people.

The metaphor describes the suffering and sad state and desperation of the people.  For example “the damp souls of housemaids” and again basement denotes and symbolizes poor life conditions—also the Twisted faces which compare to unhappy faces. “The brown waves of fog toss up to me” the fog denotes the pollution of industrialisation and working on the dusty road.

Personification is to describe the state of the ill mind. The struggling life of the people.  For example “fog toss up to me”  The title gives a paradoxical meaning. The term “Morning” describes positive feelings but the whole poem does not give any pleasant things to feel.  It paints the suffering of poor people. The form is nine lines with urban background with no rhyming pattern.  The tone of the poem is feeling for the poor and expressing the feeling of the poor.  Very simple and sympathetic.

The theme of the poem is hard to struggle of the poor people.  Urbanization and polluted environment and industrial pollution and the suffering of the people in such environment.  The diction of the poem indirectly conveys the agony of the poor people.

Thus the poem is full of indirect images to bring out the poverty and the ill effects of industrialization.    The poem focuses on the poor people who struggle hard to face their day-to-day life.  The poem evokes our sympathy through his feelings for the people whose life is a challenge.

Paradox

The title “Morning at the Window” may be viewed as paradoxical because the title evokes a joyful awakening, although the poem is not joyful as closer analysis reveals.

Sensory Imagery 

Eliot opens “Morning at the Window” with a lot of sensory detail reflecting the hustle and loudness of urban life. The noise of breakfast plates rattles in basement kitchens and the image of housemaids “sprouting despondently at area gates.”

Visual Imagery

Eliot uses images to reflect the experience of the modern world and urban life. “Damp souls” saying that these people are deeply unhappy. In line four, the poet uses a verb, “sprouting”, the word sprouting gives me the image of housemaids appearing out of nowhere. The word “despondently” clearly evokes to the reader that these people are immensely depressed with their life and the feeling of being trapped in their situations, seeing no escape from their repetitive and unfulfilling lifestyles.

Symbols

The basement in the first stanza visualizes the symbol of poverty.  “Fog” is symbolic of confusion, and the twisted faces and the aimless smile symbolize the frustration and the emptiness in city life.

About the Writer of Morning at the Window

Thomas Stearns Eliot, an American-born scholar, and poetic genius claimed by both the United States and England were born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1888. His style transcended previous literary movements with a surprising sense of humour. Both frustratingly obtuse and dazzlingly memorable, his masterworks redirect attention from the collapse of Edwardian respectability to the birth of modernism In 1921, he wrote the poem “The Waste Land” while recovering from exhaustion. Eliot won Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. He died in London, England, in 1965. Eliot’s relation to romanticism, his significance in the development of modernism, and his role as an expatriate affecting a “reconciliation with America” in “The Dry Salvages” are all important considerations.

Who is the Speaker in the poem?

The person, who is speaking in the poem is Eliot, However, it could be a character Eliot has created, a person of higher social status; because the person has a window and therefore does not live in a basement.

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