Essay on The Waste Land and Modernity

To begin with, let’s emphasize that Thomas Sterns Eliot’s “The Wasteland”¯ is one the most ambiguous work of the entire literature heritage. Being full of not clear images, figures and illusions this poem became revelation of the author’s time and still occupies minds of thousands. Notwithstanding the lack of direct plot and main idea, “The Wasteland”¯ is incredibly relevant to be analyzed, as some points are useful to be interpreted.

The author grabs readers attention with outstanding opening lines ”“ “April is the cruelest month”¯. What is its meaning in fact? The only right answer cannot be found out indeed. However, some conclusion can be drawn through associations making. At first, let’s get clear that April, and spring generally, are always described as the most fascinating time of the year in literature. In this order, “The Wasteland”¯ opening lines can be perceived as the author’s message about his originality and uniqueness of further plot. At second, the direction to dark poem is also lined out by starting words. In this regard, this simple phrase can be understood as the kind of warning about the following plot.

It has already been mentioned that allusions are essential for the entire concept of “The Wasteland”¯. Regarding this fact, the first of them can be found out even in the opening lines. There is no secret that analyzed work of Thomas Sterns Eliot was significantly affected by World War I and after World War I period (Bredick). Let’s remind the first words of the poem: “April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain”¯ (Eliot). What is the illusion here?

Seemingly, the figure of moral decay and frustration of after war humankind’s mind is worth to be recognized those. The spring and winter are contrasted as War and after War time. Probably, the author tried to say that the end merciless slaughter brought the fall of human spirit, in the aspect of incurable wounds of World War I tragedy.

The separate issue to be analyzed is “Holy Grail”¯ legend’s contribution to analyzed poem. In fact, Eliot has never denied that Jessie L. Weston’s “From Ritual to Romance”¯ (1920), which tells much about the legend of Grail, was incredibly impactful to his poem. The first support is the tittle “The Wasteland”¯. Remember, the injury of Fisher King affected his kingdom, which turned into the waste land. To support this view, the part about Madame Sosostris is useful: “Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe, With a wicked pack of cards”¦ Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel, And here is the one-eyed merchant”¯ (Eliot) The figures of “wicked pack of cards”¯ and “the man with three staves”¯ are derivative from the Holy Grail legend. The first figure is devoted to the four symbols (cup, lance, sword, and dish)of Grail story. The second one is related to the image of Fisher King from the legend.

Speaking about the center theme of “The Wasteland”¯, reader can be confused with numerous not connected to each other figures, ideas, thoughts and quotes. Therefore, we have to come back to the background. Seemingly, answer to this question contained in the title of the poem and above noted general “dark”¯ spirit of poem is suitable to confirm this fact.

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