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T. S. Eliot Versus C.S. Lewis: Comparative Essay

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T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis’ writings differ due to their religious beliefs and time period. Both poets used their religious perspective in some of their writings. T.S. Eliot, a modernist, often wrote on a religious point of view. On the other hand, C.S. Lewis, contemporary, often wrote on an atheist point of view.

The modern era occurred took place from 1914 to 1939. A major characteristic in modernism is nihilism. “…the rejection of all religious and moral principles as the only means of obtaining social progress” (History of Modernism). Most people during this time period were atheists. Atheism is the lack of belief of any gods or any other religious beliefs. “A cause of this is linked to the change in culture. One of the causes of this iconoclasm was the fact that early 20th-century culture was literally re-inventing itself on a daily basis” (History of Modernism). During the modernist time period, artists noticed the lack of freedom within art, such as poetry.. As a result, artists began to break some rules. These rules were established to keep up with the upcoming advanced technology. Many artists strongly believed that everyone should be allowed have artistic freedom.

The contemporary era took place from 1939 to present. “By the late 20th century Christianity had become the most widely disseminated religion on earth. Virtually no nation remained unaffected by the activities of Christian missionaries, although in many countries Christians are only a small fraction of the total population” (Stefon, Matt). Anglicanism was the religion T.S. Eliot in which affiliated with. Although he was known to be a modernist poet, he still had connections to the contemporary era.

T.S. Eliot wrote the collection of poems “Four Quartets”. In the forth poem, he wrote about God’s forgiveness. His main idea in this poem was that if you don’t ask for forgiveness, you will not be saved. “The only hope, or else despair lies in the choices of pyre or pyre – to be redeemed from fire by fire” (Four Quartets).

C.S. Lewis wrote “Ode for New Year’s Day”. This poem was about how God did not care about any of us in this world. “The sky above is sickening, the clouds above God’s hate cover it, body and soul shall suffer beyond all word or thought, till the pain and noise terror that those first years have wrote” (Ode for New Year’s Day).

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During the modernist era, many people were often not religious. “ Symbolically, the embrace of primitivism is a negation of the very principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition and an affirmation of authentic expression of that hidden self that only finds expression at night when we dream.” (History of Modernism). Ironically, T.S. Eliot was both a modernist and religious. “The 21st century is the century of the Christian Era…” (Contemporary History). This is ironic because C.S. Lewis was an atheist and contemporary.

T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis are different, but are joined together by one idea. “What joins Lewis and Eliot together is more important than what makes them different. Lewis later observed “I agree with him about matters of such moment that all literary questions, are in comparison, trivial”” (Wilson, Jared).They also have similar concerns. “In retrospect, Lewis’s view of myth and “literary religiousness” apply to Eliot’s work. Both poets’ early verse share common concerns, also. As Eliot’s early poetry seeks to recover the “lost story” by creating a verbal collage of divergent philosophies, religion, and folklores, Lewis’s early poetry evidenced his desire to integrate his modernist atheism with classic mythologies. The two writers appear to echo each other’s concerns” (Wilson, Jared).

C.S. Lewis struggled with his faith a lot throughout his life. In his childhood, he grew up in a Christian home. In September of 1911, he became an atheist, 18 years later, he abandoned atheism and converted to theism. Theism is a religion in which it is believed that one God has created and rules the universe. Then in 1931, he converted to Christianity. In 1959, he and T.S. Eliot become a member of a commission to revise the Psalter-a copy of the book of Psalms from the Bible. Four years later, C.S. Lewis dies. “Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most intellectual writers of his day” (Website, The Official).

T.S. Eliot graduated from Harvard in 1909. He later returned to Harvard and earned his PhD in 1916. Eliot converted to Anglicanism in 1927. Anglicanism is a religion in which it is believed that faith should be fully based on the Bible. This belief is similar to the ones of Catholicism. In 1965, T.S. Eliot dies. T.S. Eliot’s religious beliefs definitely play a role in his writing techniques and topics.

T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis had different views in their writing. T.S. Eliot focused on religion while C.S. Lewis often focused on atheism. Along with that, Eliot was a modernist while Lewis was contemporary. However, they agreed in some ways. For example, they agreed that some literary ideas may not be important. “These are the common elements of our universal experience. Stylistically, Eliot and Lewis may be worlds apart, but thematically they journey together” (Wilson, Jared).

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