Modernism was a cultural movement or period style that was dominant particularly in the very late 19th Century through to the end of World War II. As such, it marked a distinctive break from Victorian nobility and morality, and rejected the optimism that was prevalent in the 19th Century. Its ideals were that rationalism would perhaps one day rule humanity, and as such modernism posed a more pessimistic view on society than previous periods. Perhaps the most fundamental idea in modernism is that it is anti-traditionalist. Thus was the context for TS Eliot's "Preludes", written in 1911.
The poem itself depicts society and change from the eyes of a person, viewing the world around him with nothing more than disgust. This persona is torn between his reality and his long gone traditional ways. As described above, modernism was anti-traditionalist, and as such it involved change. This change is what the protagonist has trouble dealing with.
It is through the eyes of this protagonist that we see the world and it is through Eliot's use of language that we understand this world.
Eliot uses imagery to describe this bleak world around him. The line "The showers beat/On broken blinds and chimney-pots" suggests to us his undesired, bland environment. Rain is often associated with despair and misery, and broken blinds suggest to us the protagonist's poor environment and the rundown state of town. The whole of stanza one suggests to us that this town is desolate and dull, with nothing of interest. The protagonist describes his/her surroundings clearly, meaning he/she has nothing of interest to do. The short line consisting of "Six o'clock" further emphasises this town's dullness- it suggests that there is so little to do that one might stop and notice the time. Images such as "smell of...