The waste land
The Waste Land is a poem written by Eliot and published in 1922.
It is divided into 5 sections:
1) The Burial of the Dead
2) A Game of Chess
3) The Fire Sermon
4) Death by Water
5) What the Thunder Said
The Waste Land is considered as the most important poem of the 20th century for 2 reasons:
1) It influenced the poetry. It influenced the poetry because the most part of the contemporary and the future’s poets, even those who have not followed Eliot’s method, have had to come to terms with it, if only to choose other themes and techniques.
2) It expresses the modern artist’s disillusion with the modern world and, at the same time, the desperate need and search for a new tradition.
The poem also represents the culmination of the first phase in Eliot’s career, which may be called NIHILISTIC. The poet sees only ruins and desolation around him and is concerned with aspects of the decay of western civilization that followed the World War I.
Issues (questioni) and themes.
1) The Waste Land cannot be reconstructed into a coherent, logically ordered narrative or into a message: the images are not logically ordered.
In fact, the poem is Fragmentary The fragmentation of the poem is a reflection of the fragmentation of contemporary culture, in which each individual must try to find a personal ordering or interpretation.
2) The central metaphor of the poem is the spiritual dryness and sterility of modern life, the death of western culture through a lack of any belief, religious or other, that can gave meaning to everyday existence.
3) The death and the rebirth expresses especially in The Burial of the Dead.
The mythical structure of the poem
Eliot expresses the Waste Land's themes through images, echoes and also quotations from ancient myth and legends.
Eliot was inspired by:
1) Sir James Frazer's monumental study of pagan myths and fertility rites
2) Jessie Wenston's study which relates ancient fertility myths and rites to the rituals of early Christianity
3) The medieval romances of the Holy Grail.
However, the order of myth is projected on to the chaos of modern life, with the alternations of references of sterility and fertility
1) Eliot, in his work, uses a modernist style, in fact, in The Waste Land there is a lack of traditional structure:
A. There are different time shifts
B. And there are 5 unequal sections that show no realistic or logical continuity.
2) Eliot also uses quotation form or allusions to 35 writers, in 6 languages, as well as frequent allusions to various philosophical and religious traditions.
For exampleà He uses Dante to express something fundamental to modern sensibility: the crowds flowing over London Bridge at the end of The Burial of The Dead are modeled on the crowds of damned souls in Dante’s Inferno.
3) The metrical pattern too reflects the poem’s variety: lines vary in length and rhythm, and would seem to be a form of free verse, although there are some regularities and rhymes.