Cubism and Multiplicity of Narration in the Waste Land

Topics: T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Cubism Pages: 10 (3016 words) Published: January 22, 2013
Cubism and Multiplicity of Narration in The Waste Land

The aim of this essay is to consider the multiplicity of narration in The Waste Land and its relationship in enrichment of content and meaning in the poem. There is an attempt to convey the Cubist traits and find concrete examples in the poem. This study will try to specify evidences for conformity of cubism and multiplicity of narration in the poem. While Eliot juxtaposed so many perspectives in seemingly set of disjointed images, there is “painful task of unifying .., jarring and incompatible perspectives“ in The Waste Land. Like a cubist painting, there is a kind of variety of narration in unity through the poem. The usage of different languages and narrations in the poem helps to convey sense of the strain of modern living in modern waste land.

The Waste Land is like a cubistic painting. The cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening. They wanted instead to emphasize the two dimensionality of the canvas. So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, and then realigned these forms within a relief-like space. They also used multiple or contrasting vantage points for narration of their story on canvas. The most conspicuous feature of cubist form is the abandonment of single perspective. The multiperspectivism in cubism suggests that the many appearances in the world are less true than the abstract design in which produced by their juxtaposition. Eliot dedicated an entire chapter of his 1

doctoral thesis on the problem of solipsism. It is a problem raised by the fact that in any human experience of the world, the world is always experienced from an individual perspective or (in Bradley’s term) finite centre. An individual’s mental life consists in a changing series of such finite centres, and there is no guarantee that his centres will harmonize with others or even with themselves. There is no guarantee that one’s experience or self will be understood by others. Communication of the inner life is always a courageous act of faith across a gulf of privacy and difference. Eliot himself said in his essay “Knowledge and Experience“ ( 1964 ) “the life of a soul does not consist in the contemplation of one consistent world but in the painful task of unifying ( to a greater or less extent ) jarring and incompatible ones , and passing , when possible , from two or more discordant viewpoints to a higher which shall somehow include and transmute them .” Therefore we see the terrifying problem of personal communication already expressed in Eliot’s works and also “the painful task of unifying .., jarring and incompatible perspectives“ to the fragmentation and synthesizing efforts of The Waste Land .

The original title for The Waste Land was “He do the police in different voices”. The line , comes from Charles Dickens’ novel Our Mutual Friend (1864_65). It is describe that widow Betty Higden, says of her adopted foundling son Sloppy ”You might not think it , but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the police in different voices.” As The Waste Land is composed of so many voices and narrations , this would help us to understand that , while there are many different voices and narrations in the poem , there is one central consciousness. We have a multiplicity of voices and narrations, male and female, young and old, in a variety of languages and styles. The shifts are unannounced, so that often we do not even know who is speaking. But the unity of the poem emerges from the fact that these all merge into a single personality, something we might call the voice of the modern consciousness. The fact that this modern consciousness cannot settle into a fixed perception of things or even into a 2

consistent language and narration helps to convey sense of the strain of modern living ....
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