Two of the poem’s sections -- “The Burial of the Dead” and “Death by Water” --refer specifically to this theme. What complicates matters is that death can mean life; in other words, by dying, a being can pave the way for new lives. Eliot asks his friend Stetson: “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?”
The Christ images in the poem, along with the many other religious metaphors, posit rebirth and resurrection as central themes. The Waste Land lies fallow and the Fisher King is impotent; what is needed is a new beginning. Water, for one, can bring about that rebirth, but it can also destroy.. Hence the prevalence of Grail imagery in the poem; that holy chalice can restore life and wipe the slate clean; likewise, Eliot refers frequently to baptisms and to rivers – both “life-givers,” in either spiritual or physical ways. The Seasons
"The Waste Land" opens with an invocation of April, “the cruellest month.” That spring be depicted as cruel is a curious choice on Eliot’s part, but as a paradox it informs the rest of the poem to a great degree. What brings life brings also death; the seasons fluctuate, spinning from one state to another, but, like history, they maintain some sort of stasis; not everything changes. In the end, Eliot’s “waste land” is almost seasonless: devoid of rain, of propagation, of real change. The world hangs in a perpetual limbo, awaiting the dawn of a new season. Lust
Perhaps the most famous episode in "The Waste Land" involves a female typist’s liaison with a “carbuncular” man. Eliot depicts the scene as something akin to a rape. This chance sexual encounter carries with it mythological baggage – the violated Philomela, the blind Tiresias who lived for a time as a woman. Love
The references to Tristan und Isolde in “The Burial of the Dead,” to Cleopatra in “A Game of Chess,” and to the story of Tereus and Philomela suggest that love, in "The Waste Land," is often destructive. Tristan and Cleopatra die, while Tereus rapes Philomela, and even the love for the hyacinth girl leads the poet to see and know “nothing." Water
"The Waste Land" lacks water; water promises rebirth. At the...