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1 The Love Song of Old Possum: How T.S.

Eliot Remarks the Cat, from Femme Fatales to Practical Pets

Westminster Place is a ghostly, historic street that rests peacefully within the urban liveliness of the Central West End, lined with trees and adorned with streetlamps. If you happen to be ambling through the paths of Forest Park, absorbing the glow of the Chase Park Plaza, or exploring the mosaics of the Cathedral Basilica, you would be amiss to not visit this quiet St. Louis road. On a nice evening, it is impossible to not pass people walking their dogs, trying to avoid the gaping cracks in the sidewalk while observing the eclectic array of old houses. Among the residences that possess elaborate balconies and pillars, or the abodes that reflect cottage-style quaintness, one house stands out as remarkably plain yet inherently intriguing. Number 4446 is a foreboding dwelling place at first glance, characterized by dark red bricks and an emotionless quadrangular faade. While this austere building may not be an obvious attraction in comparison to its decorative neighbors, people walking by stop to stare when they discover that it was once the home of a celebrated poet whose father designed the exterior to reflect strict Unitarian ideals. While the last owners of this famous house kept an endearing statuette of a cat on the front porch as a reference to the man who once walked upon those same stone steps, the current residents, being devout dog-lovers and cat-haters, wanted nothing to do with feline imagery. Shortly after my family moved into this house, the cat was dethroned by a sculpture of an inquisitive possum, whose purpose, aside from being an alternative representation of the deceased poet, is largely to scare off unwanted cat visitors who have sometimes been witnessed loitering by the door. On certain nights, if you were to look into the window on the far right of the second story, you might find me engaged in a small book of poetry as feelings of life-long incompetency and failure inundate my psyche. Filled with self-deprecation and romantic eccentricity, I dramatically collapse upon the bed with the pathetic proclamation of Thomas Stearns Eliot, I do not deserve you.

2 Supernatural interactions do not seem to come naturally to me, for I have never received a comforting rebuttal or a demoralizing expression of agreement regarding my statement of insecurity. However, although the spirit of T.S. Eliot has not made himself directly known, it is believed that he takes on a different physical form to haunt his St. Louis boyhood home. Recently, thanks to the nervous behavior of the family dog, we came to speculate that a possum was lurking in the foliage surrounding the backyard. Oddly enough, within a week, a large, fierce-eyed marsupial was seen crawling in front of the side door to the house. While possums are substantially more frightening than cats, this creature was a much more welcomed guest, although he quickly made himself scarce and declined to put on the performance of playing dead. After this mysterious appearance, we do not know whether our sharp-clawed, pointy-eared friend ever returned to the backyard, but the dog makes it a daily task to run to that area of greenery in the backyard, barking threateningly to mask his fear. T.S. Eliot would attribute this routine to canine mindlessness, but perhaps that unsightly possum truly continues to haunt the Eliot house from behind those dark, shadowy branches. Biographers tend to use the word escape to describe T.S. Eliots departure from St. Louis in 1906, the year in which he began his studies at Harvard University. While this is an offensive term to those who adore the city, there is sad truth in the urgency for the young writer to leave 4446 Westminster Place. The pragmatic austerity of the Eliot house is a symbol of his parents severe Unitarian values, which greatly shaped his mentality. Because their beliefs stressed the responsibility of the individual to take on a strict standard of discipline, Eliot developed an unforgiving frame of mind and determination to excel, which inevitably led to intolerance of others and of himself (Worthen 13). While the urban, well-mannered man was capable of maintaining a suave, sophisticated appearance, the moral strenuousness of his youth would inwardly plague him, giving him the compulsion to divulge strong emotions through his writing. The pain inflicted by this self-torturing attitude manifests itself clearly in a particular collection of Eliots earliest successful poetry, which was published in 1917 as Prufrock and Other Observations.

3 He wrote these poems within a year of graduating from Harvard in 1910, and despite Eliots young age, they expose profoundly mature feelings of discomfort and agonizing sexual desire. The poet captures his carnal anxiety by composing enigmatic images of sensual felines, which are so prevalent that they come to be equated with dangerous eroticism and the narrators intense mental conflict with his lust. My interest lies in the incongruous echo of the cat motif in T.S. Eliots much later assembly of poems, Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, which he published in 1939, nearly three decades after he fixated on this imagery in the Prufrock poems. While some scholarship exists on the Cats poems that provides insights on how they relate to Eliots life and works, as well as how the cats present a metaphoric lesson for humanity, I have yet to find an extensive comparison between these childrens poems and his early Prufrock collection. My intention is to piece together the puzzle of connections between the painful poetry of his youth and the playful compositions that he wrote closer to the end of his career. I want to investigate how several motifs within the more serious body of work reappear in Old Possums light-hearted tales, and how although the signs may evoke memories of the past, the meanings changed drastically. As a method of better understanding the complexity of this master of language, I will analyze how T.S. Eliots lyrical descriptions transformed from being distressing to winsome, and will elucidate the implications that these conversions have regarding his psychology. By the time he reached his late forties, experiences had altered his mindset greatly from when he was a fresh college graduate, but he strangely chose to revisit this fascination with cat qualities by reincarnating them in the form of amusing characters for children. While the positive transformation of this image may imply an emotional recovery from the pain of his youth, there is also subtle evidence pointing to Eliots retention of mental tribulations. The examination of narration is vital in considering the relationship T.S. Eliot had with his poetry. By noting how the narrator of Old Possums Book of Practical Cats bears a persona far different from the perspectives presented in Prufrock and Other Observations, one can gather inferences that will aptly indicate significant parallels and disparities between the two bodies of work.

4 In his early years as a professional poet, T.S. Eliot adopted a distinctively modernist style in his artistic rendering of anguish, using the stream-of-consciousness technique to capture a tone of tormenting reflectiveness. Noriko Takeda beautifully describes the essence of such a writer in her book titled The Modernist Human, saying, The modernist texts subjective enigma assimilated by the puzzled interpreter reflects, in fact, the self-consciousness of the author in secluded individuality (3). This introversion entraps the cognitive self in a circulative impasse of frustration (4). The intricate contemplativeness of the young T.S. Eliots serious poems, such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, challenges the reader to grasp a syntactically fragmented mode of personal expression. Eliots language is intimately attached to his consciousness, thereby revealing through poetic form the most crucial affliction from which the narrator suffers: paralyzing emotional discomfort. Old Possum is a nickname that T.S. Eliot acquired from his good friend Ezra Pound, whose purpose was to poke fun at his way of playing dead to survive in a world he found so painful (Hart 392). This pain lucidly unveils itself through the form and content of the poems of Eliots youth, as he was experiencing sexual desire when he was residing in Paris, and consequently discovering deep insecurities within himself. These negative feelings towards women provoked his imagination to conceive the erotic femme fatale feline motif, which vividly comes to life in several cherished poems of 1911. As I shall later illustrate, the modernist narrator of this period of Eliots poetry is fully present, becoming absorbed in the mystifying visions of filth and desire. He continually reveals his self-conscious point of view in the aesthetically incoherent descriptions of dazed anxiety. In 1939, however, Old Possums identity is not so closely intertwined with his poems, which he lightheartedly narrates in a way that differs vastly from the troubled voice of the archetypal early speaker. In Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot provides a warm, approachable narrator to entertain and enlighten children with whimsical tales of mischievous household creatures who have memorable personalities and rituals. Although the pseudonym Old Possum in itself reflects the same notion of suffering and humiliation that we see in the Prufrock poems, Eliot employs a friendly

5 storyteller who is characterized by charm and humor. The significant distinction of this narrator within Eliots work is that he is completely unaffected by the content of the poems; he recites the fables with refinement and self-possession, and shows no emotional investment in the matter-of-fact subject matter. I am intrigued by Eliots violation of the subjective style that is so customary to his role as a modernist thinker, especially because he chose, out of all animals, to write about cats with a manner of storytelling that so radically contrasts the techniques he embraced as a young man. There is a singular most encapsulating way for me to describe the difference between the tone of the Cats poems and the tone of the Prufrock poems: Old Possum is a comfortable narrator, whereas characters of the older poems are wretchedly uncomfortable narrators. While men such as J. Alfred Prufrock desperately search within their souls to understand the depth of their struggles, Old Possum seems to coolly recline on a comfy tree branch as he objectively explicates the nature of our cat companions. The form of the Cats poems is significantly simpler and easygoing, with blithely singsong rhythms and rhymes that bring forth amiable humanized animals. Takeda notes the disparity of this style of writing, explaining that both the vocabulary and the syntactical order are apparently within the scope of everydayness (23). Given that T.S. Eliots mind at this time would have still been occupied with scholastic essays and evocative poems such as Burnt Norton, as well as the impending war, it is peculiar that he took a break from seriousness to experiment with levity. Rather than maintaining the intellectual isolation that characterizes modernist poets, he takes a moment to reach out to an innocent audience with a friendly voice and accessible language. Even more fascinating to me is how during this vacation from graveness, he still mirrors his past in a way that I believe captures changes in his consciousness. Just as Old Possum takes on a different narrating role in The Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot perhaps has taken on a different mental position in life. With the aid of Ezra Pound, Prufrock and Other Observations was published by the Egoist Press in 1917 (69). This volume of poetry includes twelve pieces, the most notable ones being The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Portrait of a Lady, Preludes, and Rhapsody on a Windy

6 Night. Eliot later took a job as assistant editor for the Egoist magazine; the name of the magazine can be interpreted as a symbol for Eliots state of mind at this time in his life: he was a self-centered individualist, and therefore self-torturing. Another symbolic title in Eliots life appeared in 1922, when he began running a quarterly critical magazine called the Criterion (Worthen 114). While this position allowed him to publish his own work at will, the name of the magazine ironically represents Eliots tendency since childhood to set a strict criteria for himself, leading to the self-consciousness we find in his early works. However, by 1939, while working for a publishing company called Faber & Faber, Eliot released Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, in which the narrator does not face the pressures of being a critical egoist. Rather, he does not bring any attention to his own life, but only narrates the existences of his entertaining subjects. Old Possum chooses to begin his childrens book with an instructional poem called The Naming of Cats. In this piece, he introduces the reader to the concept of feline complexity. While the insecure narrators of the Prufrock poems are constantly on the search for a sense of self, retreating into the dark corners of their minds rather than openly addressing the reader, Old Possum lightheartedly educates us on the nature of a cats inward perspective. Particularly, he is explaining to humans how we must look at a cat in regards to its identity: The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter It isnt just one of your holiday games; You may think at first Im as mad as a hatter When I tell you a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES (Eliot 1). Through these verses, the narrator implies that our relationships with cats are not meant to be simple at all; they are difficult even on the foundational level of the creatures name. That a cats identity is threefold conveys that cats are more complicated than we may have assumed. Old Possum describes the first names that cats possess as being the ones that the family use daily, the sensible everyday names like Peter or James. These are names with which we humans easily connect, since they

7 often function as average people names, although we might desire to give our cats fancier names that sound sweeter. But beyond the mundane, everyday name, the second name a cat must have is a more peculiar and dignified name such as Munkascrap or Jellylorum. These names never belong to more than one cat, and without this more exalted, animated name, a cat cannot keep up his tail perpendicular, / Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride. Old Possum emphasizes the deep value that a cats identification has upon the animal as a whole, since its name can strengthen or damage its self-esteem. However, the true depth is found in the third name. The process of naming a cat goes beyond human comprehension, as the final name explained by Old Possum is by far the most mysterious. The very essence of this particular name signifies the cognitive complexity of the feline species that sets them apart from other animals and brings them to a more human level of thoughtfulness. Old Possum knowledgeably recites, But above and beyond theres still one name left over, And that is the name that you never will guess; The name that no human research can discover But the cat himself knows, and will never confess (2). The phrase above and beyond connotes the mysticism of this enigmatic third name, and also suggests that, rather than merely chasing mice about the house, cats have a sense of spiritual identity for which they are keenly hunting. According to this lesson on feline characteristics, cats are in a constant state of reflectiveness over their individualisms, engaged in profound meditation and rapt contemplation. The humanlike component of a cats mentality places him or her in a transcendent psychological realm. However, when Old Possum asserts that no human research can discover this enigmatic cat name, he implies that cats are so advanced in this sort of profundity that their identities surpass our humanoid intelligence. A convoluted phrase he uses to describe this name is ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular Name (2). Not only is Name capitalized to denote its significance, but the conflicting juxtaposition of ineffable and effable further obscures

8 the definition of the name, since words cannot generally be simultaneously inexpressible and expressible. This odd combination of terms seems to hint that cats, and humans as well, may fervently grasp at an understanding of our spiritual selves, and while we may arrive close to a conclusion, such a deep meaning still exceeds mortal limits. When speaking about modernist poetry, Takeda writes, The solitary thinker is apt to be puzzled and subjective in expression. Moreover, self-identity is the hardest for the human consciousness to attain, because ones own self is invisible for the self (2). By the time Eliot wrote his Cats poems, he had matured to the point where he was no longer an egotistically solitary thinker, and he was more concerned with community. Therefore, the attribution of deep contemplativeness that he assigns to the practical cats seems atypical since the search for ones invisible name is part of a distinctive modernist sensibility. Eliots introversion likely developed due to a lonely and strictly controlled upbringing, (Worthen 13) as well as the psychological effects of a Unitarian tradition that emphasized works and self-discipline. The fact that his familys religion incited Eliot to develop intolerance of others and of himself corresponds to the unusually severe identity crisis he suffered in his youth. By this time in his life he had become agnostic or positively anti-religious, (141) but his stressful upbringing, which was so focused on behaving with scrupulousness, would not cease to afflict his sense of self. Because outward conduct was more emphasized than inner peace, The young Eliot grew up with a highly developed ability to be friendly but with no intimate friends; his beautiful manners, now and later, were a way of controlling his friendships (15). Since Eliot was so absorbed in his outer etiquettes, he inevitably needed to cope with his identity crisis in complete solitude, which is why he turned to stream-of-consciousness, fragmented poetry. Of course, by the mid-1930s when he was writing his Cats poems, he was much more liberated from these tensions largely due to his conversion to a faith that gave him mental relief. Yet still, the poems replicate his young adult concerns, which are more pleasantly presented by a narrator who is not presently trapped in a state of modernist discomfort.

9 While Old Possums Book of Practical Cats begins with a brief lecture about cat names, we later receive a follow-up lesson called The Ad-Dressing of Cats. The one rule concerning our communication with felines is Dont speak till you are spoken to, (Eliot 53) which warns us of the condescending nature to which cats are apparently entitled. Besides this warning, the narrator demands us to remember, A CAT IS NOT A DOG, and later, A Dogs a DogA CATS A CAT. The emphasis on statements such as these seems silly, but Old Possum insists that it is endlessly important to consider that cats are much more cognitively and spiritually complex than their canine rivals: Now Dogs pretend they like to fight; / They often bark, more seldom bite; / But yet a Dog is, on the whole, / What you would call a simple soul (54). This blunt criticism of a dogs deeper identity, or lack thereof, encapsulates the idea that modernist thinkers generally felt set apart from the less philosophical people who are not as dedicated to the process of self-identification. The brutish simplicity of canine existence is depicted in the verbosely titled poem, Of the Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles Together with Some Account of the Participation of the Pugs and the Poms, and the Intervention of the Great Rumpuscat (29). The ridiculous title in itself is an indication of the excessively senseless behavior that unfolds in the story; when an inexplicable, simple conflict ensues between a Peke and a Pollicle, every dog in town ends up incensed for no intelligent reason. They fill the park with brainless barks, creating an enormous eruption of noise and fur. This uproar of dogs in the park exemplifies Old Possums insistence that a dog, far from showing too much pride, / Is frequently undignified (54). The pointless, incessant barking demonstrates how dogs are too easily swayed by the common masses, creating needless chaos, whereas a cat would obviously display much more sophistication in such instances. For this reason, a cat appears as the hero to relieve the park of this anarchic scene; his name is The Great Rumpuscat, and by merely showing his jaws and giving a great yawn, all of the simple-souled dogs immediately take notice and run off with fear. This event represents that, in this poem dominated by dogs, nothing significant happens, and the climax is reduced to a yawn. The Rumpuscat gives the impression of being somewhat bored with the situation, knowing

10 that dogs are embarrassingly subject to influence. To solidify the belief that dogs are far less interesting than cats, Old Possum does not assign individual names to any of the dogs, because they are unlikely to be concerned with the deeper meaning of their identities. The theme of identification is not unique to this particular collection of T.S. Eliots writing; in fact, a peculiar connection exists between Old Possums emphasis on names and T.S. Eliots fixation with self-possession in the poems found in Prufrock and Other Observations. The first poem of this body of work is The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Eliot chose an Italian passage from Dantes Inferno as the epigraph. While visiting the eighth circle of hell, Dante asks one of damned souls for its name: But now, I beg you, tell us who you are. / Be no more grudging than anothers been to you, / So may your name continue in the world (XXII 55-57). The soul diffidently answers thus: If I thought my response were made To one perhaps returning to the world, This tongue of flame would cease to flicker. But since, up from these depths, no one has yet Returned alive, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear or being shamed (XXII 61-66). The souls fear of identifying itself corresponds poignantly with the character of J. Alfred Prufrock; through this mans surreal stream-of-consciousness narration, he reveals his intense dread of others perceptions of him. He lives in his own personal hell, the inferno of his consciousness, and feels as though his spirit is a wavering flame that is doomed to suffer extinguishment under the pressure of daily existence and sexual frustration. To analyze the characteristics typical of a narrator in T.S. Eliots early poems, we must begin by reflecting upon the eminent opening verses of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table

11 (Eliot 9). This image of a person who is anesthetized and rendered helplessly numb signifies that narrators sense that he is utterly powerless in life. He feels as though he is under operation, a passive body vulnerable to probing with the threat of being torn apart by others. While Prufrocks reflection of his own likeness in the evening sky is dominated by this numbness and inability to respond, a much more active, poised presence glides through the evening in the femininely sensual form of a feline. Prufrock captures this cat image vividly: The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys, Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, And seeing that it was a soft October night, Curled once about the house, and fell asleep (9). Within this description, the cat is absent of real physical substance; it prowls about the streets as visible yet ungraspable fog or smoke, as if only existing to put the etherised narrator into a further daze. The use of alliteration is prominent in these lines, with words like Licked and Lingered implying a state of pleasurable relaxation. The phrase, Let fall upon its back the soot that falls on chimneys implies that the cat expresses nonchalance about its state of filthiness, as it continues to display eased agility with slipping and leaping motions. The soft atmosphere of the night encourages the cat to fall into a comfortable slumber after exercising its erotic suppleness upon the window-panes. While Prufrock is etherised, put to sleep by external forces and reduced to a disconnected body, the cat permits itself to fall asleep because it lives in leisure and carelessness. This contrast in comfort typifies the exasperating feelings toward women that the narrators of Eliots Prufrock poems aesthetically articulate.

12 To understand the reasons why T.S. Eliot, in his early twenties, felt tension around women, one must study his background. According to biographers, Eliots upbringing was overwhelmed by women, especially by his mother Charlotte (Worthen 8). His father seems to have been emotionally absent from his sons life, but his mother cosseted her frail, youngest child who was growing tall and thin (16). Records of Eliots correspondence with his mother in the form of letters, which they wrote back and forth, even into his adulthood, hint at how ingrained their intimacy had become (16). The possible impetus of Eliots troubles with younger females was the encountering [of] Parisian prostitutes on night prowls in 1911 (Hart 401), the year after he graduated from Harvard and began studying abroad in France. Due to his strict moral upbringing it is likely that he felt a sense of shame and disgust whenever, as a very young man in Europe, he found himself sexually attracted to a woman. His embarrassment would motivate his obsession with the need to remain self-possessed, which is why, as Worthen aptly states, His very earliest poetry constantly engaged with the idea of the pose (16). The cats found in Love Song are misty manifestations of erotic women, the femme fatales that cloud the narrators senses, incite his sexual longings, and bring out his insecurities. This image is drastically different from the Practical Cats of 1939 in many ways, but one of the most curious discrepancies revolves around gender. Curiously, while females dominate the cat image in the early work, there is only one female who gets her own poem in Old Possums book. Curiously, she happens to be the first named cat to appear in the collection: The Gumbie Cat named Jennyanydots (5). This felines focus is on creating order in the house where she abides, and although she spends her days resting, her nights are spent doing various tasks such as teaching manners, music, and crocheting to the mice, and turning cockroaches into a troop of well-disciplined helpful boy-scouts. Old Possum says that the Gumbie Cat has a purpose in life and a good deed to do, since her mission is to convert that which is disorderly in her world into something good and useful. The concept of Old Gumbie Cats being the creatures on whom well-ordered households depend, inspires me to connect this female

13 feline with the human female depicted in the second poem of the Prufrock volume, Portrait of a Lady. This poem divulges the male narrators psychological discomfort as he has tense interactions with a lady-friend, around whom he greatly struggles to maintain composure. The narrator introduces the poem with a setting that resembles the mood of Love Song, and he also gives the woman a melancholy voice: Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon / You have the scene arrange itselfas it will seem to do/ With I have saved this afternoon for you (14). While the image of the smoke and the fog mirrors the dirty feline in Love Song, the idea of a woman arranging a scene to prepare for a visit relates to the Gumbie Cats need to arrange the mice and the cockroaches to create a household of order. Despite her careful preparations, the woman in Portrait of a Lady cannot find contentment in her interactions with the male narrator, who gives her no emotional solace and instead ends up satirizing her and criticizing her aesthete faade. However, the female of Eliots later poetry, Jennyanydots, appears relaxed, content, and satisfied with the work that she does. Along with her avoidance of relationship issues with men, the Gumbie Cat is different from the females of the Prufrock poems because of her relationship with windows. In Love Song, the smoke moves seductively, Rubbing its back upon the window-panes. The Gumbie Cat, on the other hand, does not move seductively; in fact, she does not move at all: She sits upon the window-sill, or anything thats smooth and flat: / She sits and sits and sits and sitsand thats what makes a Gumbie Cat! The delightful rhythm of Old Possums verses about Jennyanydots depicts the old cats existence as tranquil and easygoing. She is not on the move to stimulate sensual desires or frustrations; she is simply lounging by the window awaiting her time to sneak down to the basement to do her honorable nightly duties. The Gumbie Cats contentment with sitting contrasts the woman of Portrait of a Lady, who is agitated with her male guest and repetitively contemplates, I shall sit here, serving tea to friends (16). While this womans words are provoking discomfort and loss of self-possession in the narrator, Old Possum does not have a direct relationship with the Gumbie Cat. He simply observes her behaviors and blithely enlightens the reader about her virtuous characteristics.

14 As the Gumbie Cat is serenely sitting by the window, basking in the sun, Old Possum notes, The curtain-cord she likes to wind, and tie it into sailor-knots (6). This intriguingly echoes a detail of the womans behavior; as the narrator uncomfortably watches her speak, he observes, Now that lilacs are in bloom / She has a bowl of lilacs in her room / And twists one in her fingers while she talks (16). It seems as though T.S. Eliot is reincarnating the anxious woman in the form of his Gumbie Cat poem, but giving the character relief. The verb wind and the verb twist convey different moods and mentalities. The Gumbie Cat is able to nonchalantly wind the curtain-cord, demonstrating how she leisurely waits for the sun to go down. Again, this is a reference to the window motif, but the idea of curtains being over the windows is not present in Eliots early poetry, and they add a layer of comfort to the image. In Portrait of a Lady, the woman slowly twists the lilac stalks, physically epitomizing the tension and anxiety between her and the narrator. A sense of violent distortion exists within the word twists, which exudes the uncomfortable feeling of being pulled out of ones natural form. While the manifestation of the female sex stretches itself upon the floor, the male narrators of Eliots early poetry feel that their souls are being painfully stretched against the evening sky. While a woman is comfortably settling a pillow or throwing a shawl, (13) a narrator like Prufrock inevitably feels as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen (12) so that the world can examine his moral guilt. The narrator of Portrait of a Lady desperately wishes to escape the thought of being helplessly stretched or reduced to nerves on a screen. He wants to escape the pain of being human, and so he must borrow every changing shape / To find expression (17). This longing to transcend ones human existence appears in Old Possums Book of Practical Cats in the form of Macavity: The Mystery Cat. The early narrator would envy this particular cats ability to escape consequences for crimes of which he is guilty, For hes a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity (37). His flair for escapism is further noted with the lines, You may see him in a by-street, you may see him in the square/ But when a crimes discovered, then Macavitys not there! (37). Eliot somewhat puts his

15 own likeness in the character of Macavity, saying that his eyes are sunken in and his brow is deeply lined with thought (37). The difference between the writer and Macavity, of course, is that Macavity transcends the pain of being human; after, Hes broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity (37). The narrators of the Prufrock poems want to break every human law as well so that they can feel released from the disgust they feels towards themselves and towards others, but they are trapped in this sad existence. J. Alfred Prufrock narrates expresses this anxiety poignantly: We have lingered in the chambers of the sea, / By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us, and we drown (13). To find non-human expression, the narrator says that he must dance, dance / Like a dancing bear, / Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape (17), but ultimately he just decides to take the air in a tobacco trance as a method of escaping his anxiety by entering a half-conscious state. By saying that he must be a dancing bear, a parrot, or an ape, he implies that he is unable to act on his own willpower, but merely imitates the actions of others. Although he is not able to dance with ease, a group of Old Possums cat characters are quite beautifully proficient at dancing. The poem entitled The Song of the Jellicles is reminiscent of the title The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; however, the cats do not sing or utter a single word; they only dance, and are able to fully express themselves through joyous movement, without having to agonize over words and gestures. Old Possum is the one who sings this Song, which is quite literally set to a singsong rhythm, whereas Prufrocks Song was found in the desperate content rather than in the form. The verses describe the evangelical Jellicles thusly: Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces, Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes; They like to practice their airs and graces And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.

16 Unlike Eliots narrators of the past, these fancy cats know how to dance a gavotte and a jig, and every day they are, Old Possum says, Reserving their terpsichorean powers / To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon (17). In regards to the dancing Jellicles and the early narrators longing to dance freely, I must comment on Eliots relationship with Vivien Haigh-wood, whom he would marry in 1915. Although their relationship quickly escalated into a tumultuous struggle, especially due to Viviens mental problems (which eventually led her to an asylum), Eliot was initially enraptured by her sensuality and her ability to express herself through dance. Worthen explains, He was seduced by her liveliness, her poise and gracefulness as a dancer, and by her apparent ease with herself. He, by contrast, was profoundly and at times cripplingly self-conscious, as well as physically rather slow and painstaking (Worthen 41). This description perfectly reflects the early narrators awkwardness as he mounts the stairs and thinks he must take on another form to express himself. He would make clear that he envied the person for whom everything done or attempted comes out of a completeness of himself (41). Indeed, the Jellicle Cats appear to have a completeness in themselves as they skillfully dance at the Jellicle Ball. Eliot married a woman who challenged him constantly, in particular his carefulness and restraint. She was sexually provocative, and made him feel and react with the hope of encouraging him to live fully. Unfortunately, as the relationship was faltering, Eliot seems to have ended up hating himself for his original sexual attraction to the woman who wanted to dynamically liberate him with passionate expression. The moon is a very prominent image in T.S. Eliots Prufrock poems, thus creating significant implications about the moon as it appears in the Cats poems. Old Possum, after describing the Jellicle Cats eyes as bright and black, describes them as having moonlit eyes. This creates the eerie image of being possessed by a supernatural force, since the Jellicles treat the moon as a higher power while they perform their almost cultic ritual. Therefore, while this dance at the Jellicle Ball at the surface is lighthearted and joyous, it is also strange and mirrors a line in the Prufrock poem Conversation

17 Galante: I observe: Our sentimental friend the moonSomeone frames upon the keys / That exquisite nocturne, with which we explain / The night and the moonshine; music which we seize / To body forth our own vacuity (31). These lines create an ominous connection between inner emptiness and the Jellicles trance-like dance. In Growltigers Last Stand, the balmy moonlight causes the villain to relax and show his sentimental side to his romantic interest, Lady Griddlebone. However, while he is absorbed in the sentimental night, he did not notice that his enemies were surrounding him, and the moonlight shone reflected from a hundred bright blue eyes (10). Interestingly, it was the distraction of a woman that ultimately brought Growltiger to his demise. The Prufrock poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night clearly links the moon with the image of the cat-woman. The poem begins at midnight, and the narrator takes a solitary walk through the streets over the course of three hours, experiencing strange encounters with a streetlamp and coming upon three analogous images. The first of these images appears in the second stanza: Half-past one, The street-lamp sputtered, The street-lamp muttered, The street-lamp said, Regard that woman Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door Which opens on her like a grin (21). This appearance of a prostitute eerily while a streetlamp is explosively spitting out words or uttering them indistinctly in a haunting low tone, troubles the dazed narrator and plagues him with sexual uneasiness. In the fourth stanza, the sequence continues as the streetlamp speaks again: Half-past two, The street-lamp said, Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter, Slips out its tongue,

18 And devours a morsel of rancid butter (22). Eliot is clearly paralleling the prostitute woman with this cat who ravenously swallows some rotten, decomposing morsel, slipping out its tongue in the same way that Prufrocks smoky cat licked its tongue into the corners of the evening. In addition to the association between the woman and the cat, here Eliot adds another element to create a threefold comparison. Bizarrely, the image in stanza five is the same one that inspires joyous dancing from the Jellicle Cats: Half-past three, The lamp sputtered, The lamp muttered in the dark. The lamp hummed: Regard the moon, La lune ne garde aucune rancune [The moon keeps no grudge] (22). In this poem, the moon is a pathetic soul, not seductive in any way, but worn out and sad: The moon has lost her memory / A washed-out smallpox cracks her face. This could imply the unhappy fate that the prostitute woman will have, so it seems that the speaker is perhaps linking the idea of a filthy female with the need to exercise compassion. When the narrator melancholically contemplates, She is alone / With all the old nocturnal smells / That cross and cross across her brain, he is linking this female persona with himself, the street-walker who takes in all the forces that overwhelm the visual and olfactory senses. While a detail noted about the woman in stanza three is that the corner of her eye twists like a crooked pin, the narrator gives a similar description of the moon: Her hand twists a paper rose. This brilliantly resonates with the woman in Portrait of a Lady who twists the lilac stalks. And of course, in 1939, the Gumbie Cat appears twisting the curtain-cord into knots. These feelings of discomfort, twistedness, eeriness, sadness, loss, and relaxation are all connected, implying that all three of these images, the woman, the cat, and the moon, greatly evolved together in T.S.

19 Eliots mind. Remarkably, the moon keeps no grudge. My interpretation of the Cats poems shows that this is a prophecy that came true, for the Gumbie Cat seems to have no complaints about anything in her past and is only focused on the present, and the Jellicle Cats see the moon as an object of jubilant reverence that incites them to dance. An interesting parallel exists between Old Possums tale of Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat and Rhapsody on a Windy night. The earlier poem begins with a the creepy idea of a Whispering lunar incantation. Oddly, and not creepily, Skimbleshanks poem begins, Theres a whisper down the line at 11.39 / When the Night Mails ready to depart (49). Only a few stanzas later, as the people on the train are eagerly waiting for Skimbleshanks to arrive, At 11.42 then the signals nearly due / And the passengers are frantic to a man (49). The passengers depend on the trustworthy, meticulously caring Skimbleshanks to keep watch over the train as they sleep. The time is approaching midnight when the train must leave, just as the disturbances in Rhapsody on a Windy Night begin at midnight. Fortunately, in this childrens poem, the potentially frightening midnight does not arrive, and all is as it is supposed to be. The narrator of Rhapsody obviously had great difficulty falling asleep, causing him to become a night-walker. Skimbleshanks is also a night-walk, but his walking provides comfort. He too feels comfortable walking, as, Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces, a reminiscent image of J. Alfred Prufrock saying, Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through the narrow street (11) and the narrator of Preludes seeing a crowd of twisted faces from the bottom of the street (24). Skimbleshanks is not roaming about the street seeking his identity; he is safely in a train, providing a sense of safety and order for the sleeping passengers on the train. He is not ambling aimlessly, because he has a duty he enjoys fulfilling. In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright; Every now and then he has a cup of tea (50). As he does his business of establishing control by a regular patrol and greeting the stationmaster, he is completely poised and at ease with himself. The narrators of the Prufrock poems might not feel as comfortable around this cat as the passengers. Someone like J. Alfred Prufrock might feel haunted by Skimbleshanks glass-green eyes

20 with which he watch[es] you without winking / And he sees what you are thinking (50). Prufrock might also feel incredibly frightened by the Jellicles moonlit eyes, and the hundred bright blue eyes that surrounded Growltiger leading to his demise. The most potent example of this anxiety and fear of suffering under the gaze of others is found in Prufrocks monologue, And I have known the eyes already, known them all The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? (11). This fear of being formulated is very disturbing, because the narrator so heavily feels that he is being stretched out and observed; he is being defined systematically and reduced to a set of words or numbers that declare his identity authoritatively. The cats do not get this feeling of being formulated, because they feel emotionally self-sufficient and careless regarding others perceptions of them. Growltigers manners and appearance did not calculate to please, and when evading getting caught, Macavity is often engaged in doing complicated long division sums. The aloof magician cat in the poem Mr. Mistoffelees makes his own formulates with his singular magical powers. He is not defined by somebody else, because he is the one in control of performing surprising illusions / And creating eccentric confusions,(33) thus manipulating an audience. Unlike Prufrock, Mistoffelees can defy examination / And deceive you again. Unfortunately, the young narrator cannot escape this examination, and feels pinned by womens eyes, especially the ones that twist like a crooked pin. As another note, this pin also corresponds to the way in which Prufrock actually pins himself with his necktie rich and modest / But asserted by a simple pin (10). He is acting as a passive object and relinquishing all control and sense of his own ability to enact his own willpower. He is far too etherised to find the strength to gather poise and confidence.

21 While Prufrock feels too ashamed to presume that he deserves to even so much as spit out the butt-ends of [his] days and ways, there is a cat in Old Possums book of poetry who has absolutely no problem telling the tale of his life; he, however, would never deign to refer to his days and ways as butt-ends, because his esteem far transcends such base terminology. This cat is named Asparagus, or, Gus: The Theatre Cat. This cat wants all eyes on him, since he is fixated on the nostalgia of his glorious days acting on a stage. He is very comfortable talking about himself to others at pubs: He loves to regale them, if someone else pays, / With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days (41). He is the epitome of a delightfully pretentious actor when he brags, I have played, so he says, every possible part, / And I used to know seventy speeches by heart. He then goes on to list all of those parts and claims, I knew how to act with the back of my tail; / With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail (42). Strangely, this line reminds one of Prufrocks thought, There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet (10). Prufrocks words come from a terrible self-consciousness, whereas Guss rehearsing comes from his confident nature and willingness to exert his talents. And of course, he has to mention three times, But my grandest creation, as history will tell, / Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell. We do not know exactly what this Firefrorefiddle character is, but it seems that he is a fiend and that he falls, perhaps while being lit on fire, for some reason or another. This ominously reminds me of a haunting line in Prufrock: 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 (12). The first noteworthy word in this passage is flicker, which parallels to the instance in The Preludes when the narrator imagines that a soul flickered against the ceiling, unable to go to heaven and perhaps damned. The second noteworthy image of this line is the Footman. The appearance of this character is extremely ominous, and corresponds with the depraved character in Aunt Helen: And the footman sat upon the dining table / Holding the second housemaid on his knees/ Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived (26). Here, this depravity corresponds with the idea of

22 eternal damnation, which goes back to the Inferno reference in the epigraph of Prufrock. The final significant image is coat, which happens to be a recurring motif in the Cats poems. Other than saying that the eternal Footman held his coat and snickered, Prufrock also says, My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to my chin, (10) an image of discomfort. The coats of the cats, on the other and, are of less intensity. Despite Guss boastful speeches, His coats very shabby. Growltigers coat was torn and seedy. The Jellicle Cats are white and black (or black and white), wearing tuxedoes, appropriate for a moonlit ball. Mr. Mistoffelees is black from his ears to the tip of his tail. Macavitys coat is dusty from neglect. Not only that, but his whiskers are uncombed. Bustopher Jones, The Cat About Town, has a coat of fastidious black. The final coat worth mentioning belongs to the very last cat of the book. This cat is the only one who introduces himself, which is why the poem is called Cat Morgan Introduces Himself. He is very humble saying, I aint got much polish, me manners is gruff, / But Ive got a good coat, and I keep meself smart: / And everyone says, and I guess thats enough: / You cant but like Morgan, es got a kind art (56). He even takes the trouble to sign the poem himself, as Morgan, the casual family name spoken of in The Naming of Cats. It is strange when he says I once was a Pirate what sailed the igh seas/ But now Ive retired as a com-mission-aire. Further than that, he says that he hangs around Faber and Faber, the publishing company Eliot worked at. Youll save yourself time, / And youll spare yourself labour / If jist you make friends with the Cat at the door (56). A commissionaire is, in fact, a footman. But this cat is not ominous at all. He could never snicker at someone menacingly, or have sex with a housemaid on a table, or signify damnation. Why did the sign of the footman evolve in this way? Also significant is that the friendly cat wants to save you labour, and in general how Eliot reassigned meaning to the word Footman by creating this creature who happens to be the friendliest, more welcoming cat of the whole book. The implications of this change solidifies for me the notion that Eliot found a completely new perspective on life, which came with a relieving sense of peace with ones soul.

23 T.S. Eliots conversion to Christianity in 1927 would be the most transformative influence on his writing. During his marriage to Vivien, and around the time he was writing The Waste Land, Eliot suffered a mental breakdown and turned to a psychologist named Vittoz who wrote a book called Treatment of Neurasthenia by Means of Brain Control. Eliot was drawn to the technique of mastering ones painful thoughts and anxieties by learning how to utilize will-power, something his Prufrock narrators lack. After having a long-term ambivalence toward Christianity, Eliot came to realize that life, when one is focused on the isolated self, is despicable and meaningless. Upon his conversion, he temporarily became celibate, leaving the images of the seductive cat-woman far in the past and eventually separating from his tormented wife. After having arrived at a very zero sum, in morals, in epistemology and in personal affairs, (Kearns 88), Eliot found he could escape the torture of life through the expression of faith. In time, his new Christianity taught him to temper his selfmortification, replace his emotional detachment with compassion and engagement, and, surprisingly, to accept human sexuality. Because of Eliots character and his Unitarian upbringing, he initially had trouble bringing the concept of grace into the equation of religion, but eventually found that his new life allowed him to break away from his old self and achieve the satisfaction, consolation and purpose which had been denied to him earlier (Worthen 141). Upon realizing that creating the life of an individual disassociated with the universe was a failing life, Eliot developed a new passion for community as opposed to isolation. For this reason, in contrast to his 1919 essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, in 1939 Eliot published The Idea of a Christian Society. In addition, instead of containing his creativity to the page, he decided to turn it into a community affair through writing plays for the theatre. His attempts were somewhat criticized because of his continued tendency to write monologues for characters rather than dialogue, but he learned, as his drama developed, to adjust the balance of attention away from the tortured individual, the ambivalent focus of the first plays, toward the community of characters (Marshall 105).

24 As Christianity became a major inspiration for all of his work, T.S. Eliot shows that he attitude towards others and towards himself completely evolved. His plays and his newer poetry became more dedicated to spirituality and revelation, and even insisted that human love is to be given up in favour of a non-human love which has nothing to do either with the sexual or with the everyday (Worthen 190). As Eliot grew less self-conscious of interacting with public life, he displayed a newfound solace, and when he married a woman named Valerie Fletcher, it is said that he gave himself permission to relax and be a child again while also recovering from relationship trauma and learning to trust and love another human being (227). My analysis of T.S. Eliots Prufrock and Other Observations compared to Old Possums Book of Practical Cats has led me to infer that life transformations caused the image of the cat to change in a very positive way. The way in which signs from the Prufrock poems unexpectedly carry over to the Cats poems implies that Eliot was retaining pieces of his past but re-defining them to align with his new sense of self-identity. For this reason, he is able to take on the warm voice of Old Possum to fancifully divulge feline before for an innocent audience. Yet, we must still question why he still chooses to use this pseudonym, implying his inclination to play dead in order to escape painful reality. I believe that through this, Eliot is communicating that, although his faith transformed him immensely and increased his happiness and comfort, he continued to possess this complex self-consciousness and need to find some sort of retreat from the world. Despite his endeavors in theatre, his new religiousthemed poems, and his healthier relationships, there is a sense of insecurity that stays with such a profound modernist individual forever. But, we must also note, while possums are known to have the tendency to play dead, Old Possum is very open with us and shows no signs of emotional fatigue or dread. Like the possum who appeared in front of the door at 4446 Westminster Place, T.S. Eliot kept the endearing nickname, but no longer felt the need to play dead.