A Short Analysis of T. S. Eliot’s ‘East Coker’

A summary of Eliot’s classic poem

East Coker’ is the second poem in T. S. Eliot’s four-part sequence, Four Quartets. Eliot wrote ‘East Coker’ during the Second World War, and the poem was published in 1940. It became an immediate bestseller, selling 12,000 copies shortly after publication. (Characteristically, Eliot’s response was to say the poem can’t have been very good if so many people liked it.) The themes and images Eliot uses in ‘East Coker’ have been analysed and interpreted in a variety of ways.

Start with that title: as with the previous poem, ‘Burnt Norton’, the small Somerset village of East Coker is a place that Eliot had visited shortly before writing the poem. It was his ancestral home, where his namesake and distant ancestor Sir Thomas Elyot lived in the sixteenth century. Eliot will quote from Elyot’s The Boke Named the Governour (1531) in…

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