The Waste Land Presents Us with a Portrait of the Modern World Which Is Full of Despair and Isolation

Topics: The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound Pages: 8 (3400 words) Published: October 29, 2012
The Waste Land is a poem written in a post-world war society which describes a series of characters, settings, and relationships, the majority of which are sterile and desolate. Appleyard considers the mood that dominates the poem, “The one connecting device is a mood of despair, of barren dislocation”. Within the Waste Land Eliot persistently presents a modern world which is full of isolation and despair using each of the portraits of either settings, characters or through the depiction of relationships to express this attitude up modern society.. The first character we are presented to within the Waste Land is Marie, whose privileged lifestyle and nationality, German, indicated by Eliot’s use of different settings, “Starnbergersee” is used to demonstrate that all of society is negative and his presentation of a society full of despair and isolation is a universal issue. Marie has travelled much of the world and spends her time “in the sunlight…drank coffee and talked for an hour” She reminisces upon a cherished childhood memory where her cousin took her out on a sled and despite being “frightened” he comforted and supported her, this is crucial as it remains the only positive contact Eliot uses within the poem. Eliot contrasts this positive in her past to the misery and seclusion within Marie’s present, where she has no one to reassure and console her, this is evident as she reads “much of the night” due to worry and speculation and goes “south in the winter” to escape. Nellist considers that the time Eliot wrote in differed largely from the past also, “The world in which the poet is writing is a totally different one to the one that past poets inhibited” It’s evident that Eliot has presented a portrait of a modern world profuse in despair and isolation as only her past is portrayed as positive, her present, in the modern world, is full of desolation and loneliness. Eliot also presents the portrait of society as full of despair and isolation within the next section of T.S Eliot’s The Burial of the Dead which opens with the description of a vast, inhospitable desert where roots must “clutch” in desperation to merely survive, with the plants attempting to grow mirroring the description of April at the start of the Burial of the Dead. Eliot mirrors the biblical reference of ‘son of god’ with the use of “son of man” which depicts that this wilderness is a product of man. Eliot’s use of a “heap of broken images” could be metaphorical for memories that we wish to forget, this mirrors Marie, from the previous verse who also desperately longs to escape. Eliot depicts the landscape as burning under the intense heat, “where the sun beats” in addition to this the land provides no escape from the sweltering temperature with water or shelter “dead tree gives no shelter…dry stone no sound of water” Also, the repetition of ‘no’ emphasises the profoundly negative environment. However the narrator shows that there is in fact shelter and an escape from this hostile landscape “there is a shadow under this red rock” where it must be cool and tranquil. The narrator invites us under the rock, to escape, to show us something contrasting to what the present is, or the past that looms metaphorically in your wake “your shadow at morning striding behind you” or “your shadow at evening rising to meet you” figuratively referring to your future. However under the rock we are shown that the present merely contains fear, only that it is tangible and therefore provable “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”. LAST LINE T.S Eliot opens the final stanza within Burial of the Dead by depicting London, and therefore also modern society, as an “unreal city” implying this fabricated culture appears as though in a fairy-tale as no one appears to be truly living within it, symbolic of the dreamlike state that the people of this society abide within. Eliot portrays the morning to be settled under a “brown fog” his use of pathetic fallacy with the use of...
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