Analysis of the "The Burial of the Death"

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This paper will analyse the first movement of The Wasteland titled, “The Burial of the Dead” by employing Eliot’s “theory of impersonality” and certain principles of New Criticism. It seeks to examine how Eliot subverts his personality and emerges as a catalyst in the Burial of the Death by using various element such as as paradox, unity of structure and contrastive imagery to ensure the organic unity of the poem. To Eliot, a poem or a work of art is thing in itself . Following The New Critics tradition of relying heavily on use of paradox, irony and ambiguity, The Wasteland opens up with the declaration that “April is the cruellest month...(1)” thereby subverting the traditional concept of spring being harbinger of life and rejuvenation. Another paradox is highlighted in the line “Winter kept us warm..(5)” Thus by reiterating the known myths and concept, Eliot creates new sensory pleasure in his poetry. The reader can thus instantly connect to the poem. Eliot’s technique is similar to the “estrangement” technique used by the Russian formalist. Shklovsky expresses in Art as an Technique, “The technique of art is to make objects unfamiliar, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception...”. By disrupting the modes of ordinary linguistic discourse, literature “makes strange” the world of everyday perception and renews the reader’s lost capacity to fresh sensation. As Eliot expressed Traditional and the Individual Talent: The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him.(29)

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the absence of the authorial voice. The diversity of voice keeps the poem ambiguous. Eliot’s use of several orators in the poem echoes his theory of impersonality “The progress of an artist...
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