Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat Summary by T. S. Eliot

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About the Poet: Thomas Stearns Eliot better known as T. S. Eliot was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and one of the twentieth century’s major poets. T SEliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888 and died on 4 January 1965.

As a poet, he altered his affinity for the English metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century and the nineteenth century French symbolist poets including Baudelaire and Laforgue into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems in many respects articulated the disillusionment of a younger post–World War I generation with the values and conventions, both literary and social, of the Victorian era.

Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat Summary by T. S. Eliot

We start the journey with the poet at the railway station. The Night Mail is ready to start. But it seems that everybody is restless and their murmuring and confused movements give us a feeling that they are waiting for someone to give a “green signal” for the journey. At last when it was 11.42 we see Skimble coming out of the luggage van and the signal goes “All Clear”. The train is set for the North.

Throughout the journey whenever you open your eyes or wherever the train stops you can see the cat somewhere on the train or out on the platform. The cat’s presence makes an impression that he is in charge of the train. The poet presents the cat as the most important one on the train. He is attributed with the roles of a supervisor, stationmaster’s friend or a patrolling police officer. He is present at the bagmen playing cards, he roams in the first class as well as the third class. He examines every passenger and we may feel that he never aproves of any riot. Naturally the passengers are quiet at night and it leaves an impression that he is responsible for such a calm atmosphere.


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While you are going to your bed in your cabin you see the cat behind the guard. It may indicate that it is he who made the guard to ask your preference of weak or strong tea in the morning. Even when you sleep peacefully the cat continues its ’rounds’ on the train. The poet makes witty comments on the cat’s habit of drinking scotch whisky to make his night watch more vigilant. At every station the cat gets out of the train and refresh himself. In the morning whe you reach your station you can see Skimble in front of you bidding good bye to you. He gives you a wave of his long brown tail and tells you “ I’ll see you again!”.
This is the substance of the poem. In other words, the poet describes the importance and significance of Skimbleshanks and presents him as the most important passenger aboard the train. Eliot portrays how the cat caters to the needs of the passengers and the general security of the train.

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