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T.S. Eliot's Wasteland- Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By tlack2
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“Life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself.” (Daniel Goleman) In T.S, Eliot’s, the Wasteland, the modern city is depicted as dark and hopeless, lacking any passion and characterized by lifelessness. Through his bleak description of the modern day man, Eliot is able to express his feelings of disgust towards the modern world. He feels alienated from this world in which the living dead roam, communication has been butchered, gender identity has been lost, and the carnal human has come to rule. The modern world, he believes, is corrupt to the point of no hope. Through his use of allusion and descriptive diction Eliot creates for the reader this wretched and lifeless modern world through the looking glass of his own perceptions and emotions. Eliot believes that the modern world is in a state of Purgatory in which all humanity has been lost. He relates London to Dante’s Inferno. In the Inferno, Virgil guides Dante into the center of the earth where he finds the devil. In the devil’s mouth are Brutus, Cassius, and Judas, three great betrayers who will forever reside in the infernal world. With this allusion, Eliot is suggesting that Londoners are betrayers against the good of society; against what is right. The modern man is like a dehumanized drone wandering the wasteland in cyclical toil. Man walks around seemingly dead; however, not only are the people damned, but the modern city as a whole is damned. Similarly, in the movie, Chinatown, the dehumanization and objectivity of society results in an utterly damned city. A mysterious city that undergoes an ever-running cycle of bleakness in which no one can ever escape its dark and incestuous grasps. The description of the human body in the above instances serves to describe the lifeless and depressing modern world. Eliot also believes that the modern world is undergoing a butchering of language. After Dante’s Inferno, the poem transitions to the Myth of Philomela. In this Greek myth, Philomela is kidnapped by her brother-in-law who continually rapes her. In her urgent desire to see her sister and the shame she feels, the brother-in-law becomes exceedingly outraged and cuts off her tongue; thus, damaging her means of communication. Eliot uses this image to represent modernity. We have been taken away from traditions and cannot fully communicate our past and whom we are, therefore, leaving our only means of communication to the written word. Speech has been hacked off. Communication was once only verbal, however through the progression of time, this form has become unimportant. Thus modern society has lost many of the teachings, traditions and history of the past. The modern man is constantly creating a world of destruction because he is building upon shambles; the foundation has been destroyed with time. In Charles Baudelaire’s poem, The Swan, he reflects the same idea that history has been lost. He reminisces over “old” Paris, before it had been restructured by Napoleon, He too believes that history has been lost, and the modern city cannot actually undergo progress without the knowledge of the past. With loss of the past causes a lack of communication, resulting in a crumbling society. In this modern world, the intellectual and emotional man has been replaced by that which is only carnal and lewd. Man is focused only upon the desires of his flesh with no consideration to the division between what is right and what is wrong. Gender has also lost distinction, as with the story of Tiresias. The Greek Myth of Tiresias states that there was a period in which he was transformed into a woman and later transformed back to a man. Eliot uses the allusion to depict modern London and the way in which gender has become irreplaceable and irrelevant. Women begin to cut their hair short, wear pants, and become involved in the Feminist movement. Humanity has lost all identity in the modern city, that not even gender can offer any distinction. In the poem, Tiresias is watching two people having sex. During the affair the couple is passively engaged and indifferent. Sex is not enjoyable in this modern world and encompasses no feeling. It serves to please the flesh and is only practiced for immediate satisfaction. In the movie, Chinatown, woman’s body is constantly being viewed as an object violated by man. The opening of the movie is composed of pictures of a woman being penetrated by a man, within the movie a daughter is being raped by her father, and in closing, a woman is shot in the head which results in half of her face being blown off. The constant forced sexual affairs, violence and lack of emotion is in perfect comparison to the idea that Eliot present. The modern man is merely a beast living in a world through which he prowls for the next sexual victim. There is no passion, no emotion. Sexuality is butchered. According to T.S Eliot, the modern world is corrupt and headed for complete annihilation. He feels alienated from this world in which he once enjoyed the classical ideals and aesthetic beauties. He now has no hope for mankind and has completely disconnected himself from the living dead that roam round him. According to Eliot, the world is damned and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent the destruction.…...

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