The Sexual Wasteland in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” Over the course of human life, the sexual encounters between a man and a woman have allowed for the existence and reproduction of mankind. What was once considered sacred to be used for the sole purpose of human reproduction, sexual intercourse has become something more favorable in our modern times than to be utilized for just survival. In our day and age, especially now more than ever, sex is not only for the ongoing creation of humans, but it has also become a source of pleasure as well. However, in T.S. Eliot’s 1922 influential poem “The Waste Land,” the women portrayed in the poem all lack the true happiness and meaning that comes behind the nature of sexual interactions. Though most of the characters of the poem are all living in physical and/or mental wastelands, it seems as if the cruelest wasteland is experienced from three women who endure the sexual wasteland in their lives, due to the impression that their sexuality yields absolutely no bliss for them or any kind of hope for regeneration.
Though we see numerous cases of sexual wastelands among other characters in the poem, three women in particular are conspicuous in my eyes. However different their lives may be, the women all experience sexual liaisons void of the pleasure it brings, either through the physical pleasure of the sex itself, the intimate connection that comes from sex, or the desire to procreate. In the second section of the poem titled “A Game of Chess,” Eliot introduces us to two very different women; one woman is wealthy yet trapped in a loveless marriage, while the second woman is married yet physically tainted by the various fruits of her womb. In the third section, “The Fire Sermon,” we are introduced to another example of women suffering from sexual wastelands. Eliot speaks of a typist and her obvious indifferent sexual relationship with a clerk, but makes a very interesting choice to include a section on Queen Elizabeth I in regards to her relationship to Leicester. Like the first two women in “A Game of Chess”, these women are also from different sides of the social hierarchy. It is incredibly interesting that all women are so different from each other but are connected, somehow, by the sexual wasteland they are all experiencing individually in their lives.
Among the three women that I am focusing on suffering from a sexual wasteland, the first woman from “A Game of Chess” is a very interesting character aside from her connection to any of the other women. Eliot has made her section the longest out of all women because he has described her in great detail with strong images of her wealthy life. The woman’s wealth is described as so elite that she could possibly be of some nobility; however, despite all this wealth, her mind is continuously restless, especially around her husband. In the first section of “A Game of Chess,” the woman and her husband engage in a conversation, in which we see the self-destruction of the woman and the unsympathetic response of her husband. She says “Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak” (112). Her demanding and impatient cries for some kind of communication with her husband are almost useless. We can sense from the woman’s hysterical need for attention that she is very insecure in her marriage and her husband’s unresponsiveness to her shows that their marriage as a whole is a type of wasteland. The wealthy woman’s worries are attributed to her constant curiosity of her husband’s thoughts and her own neurosis. The husband, it seems, cannot help but think random thoughts of rats in an alley and dead men. Beside her husband’s inattentiveness of her, the wealthy woman seems to be completely dependent on the lives of others for her to function, as shown later in the passage. She wonders, “What shall I do now? What shall I do?/ I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street/ With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?” (131-133). If her...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document