This is Eliot’s masterpiece.
It can be seen as an amazing anthology of states of mind, impressions, hallucinations, situations and personality.
It’s a fragmentation of elements at first sight; but if we look at things in the right way, everything makes sense.
There is one voice in all the work: he is Tiresias, a Theban prophet.
The entire work is made up of five sections:
The Burial of the Dead, in which the central theme is the opposition between sterility and fertility, so death and life;
A Game of Chess, where there is the juxtaposition of the beautiful past with the horrible present;
The Fire Sermon, basically, in it there is the description of a loveless, mechanical and squalid sexual encounter;
Death by Water, in which the main theme is the idea of a spiritual shipwreck, so the loss of all the traditional values;
The main theme is the contrast between the fertility of the previous era and the sterility of the present; this one, is caused by the western civilization caused by the First World War.
There is a completely new concept of history: while previously, in the ancient era, the myth was an important element, it was one of the most important ways to share culture and traditions, now it lost all its values and it’s considered just as a tale sometimes.
Eliot introduces the mythical method: it is especially through mythical allusions that the contrast between past and present appears.
The fragmentation of the entire work is given also thanks to the mixture of the different poetic styles used, as the blank verse, the quatrain, the free verse. This mixture is used in order to represent the chaos of the present society and civilization.
Eliot uses a lot of techniques:
the technique of implication, he requires the active participation of the reader, but also of the speaker, so of the writer;
the technique of the objective correlative, it is explained in Hamlet and his problems, a work of 1919: Eliot uses objects and images that everybody see and can relate to: it is basically a combination of images, objects or descriptions that evoke in the reader some feelings. It is similar to Joyce’s epiphany, but it is more powerful: in Joyce, the epiphany concerns only the characters; while, using this technique, also Eliot can relate to the feelings evoked by what he is saying. So, while Joyce is only telling the epiphany, Eliot is also living it.
the technique of juxtaposition, squalid elements with poetic ones.