Eliot conjures up the alienation and fragmentation of the modern world which characterised society in the aftermath of the First World War and which drove writers and poets of the time to experiment with different modes of expression. In his lines you can determine the uncertainty accompanying modern city life and the ensuing loss of personal identity, where the individual seems little more than a cog in a gigantic machine.
His 'unreal city' is peopled with ghost-like forms like the souls in Dante's Inferno. Sighing and shuffling along, their eyes on the ground in front of them, they flow over London Bridge to begin their monotonous day at their desks:
"Unreal CityUnder the brown fog of a winter dawn,A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,I had not thought that death had undone so many.Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hoursWith a dead sound on the final stroke of nine."
At the end of the day people go home to their humdrum lives and petty passions:
"At the violet hour when the eyes and backTurn upward from the desk, when the human engine waitsLike a taxi throbbing waiting...."
"Elizabeth and LeicesterBeating oarsThe stern was formedA gilded shellRed and gold..."
Eliot's 'unreal city' is of course universal, and can be seen as a metaphor for the poverty of spiritual life in modern metropolitan society, probably even more relevant today than it was almost a century ago. Dodging the crowds of people streaming across London Bridge at the end of yet another hard day's grind, I felt glad that I was just an observer.....