T.S. Eliot: Poems

What is 'objective correlative' and an example from Eliot's poetry?


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Eliot defines the objective correlative as:

"A set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion."

Usually critics cite "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" as an example of this literary device. Prufrock is supposed to embody the general identity of the modern man (i.e. weak, over-educated, unexciting, etc.). Therefore the way Eliot describes him is a sort of objective correlative for that particular archetype.

I found this article on objective correlative myself, and it explains it rather well.

(if anybody should search the answer to this question in future)



this term was coined by American painter and poet Washington Allston and was introduced by T.S Eliot rather casually into his essay "Hamlet and his Problems". He wrote" the only way of expressing emotion is by finding an objective correlative";in other words "a set of objects,a situation,a chain of events, which shall be a formula of that particular emotion", and which will evoke the same emotion from the reader.


A glossary of literary terms by M.H Abrams