The Waste Land: Religious Context

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  • Topic: Poetry, The Waste Land, Richard Wagner
  • Pages : 5 (1717 words )
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  • Published : November 29, 2011
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T.S.Elliot is renowned for his notable poem ”The Waste Land”, which depicts people’s spiritual disillusion and loss of faith battered by World War I as a real waste land. As a modernist, Elliot has harnessed imagery to the point that those plenty images managed to convey the message of death, lust, rebirth, etc. Among those varying images involved in this classic masterpiece, the image of water has been deemed thought-provoking and, thus, attached to multiple versions of illustrations. I contend that the image of water is inextricably interwoven with religious doctrines, as Elliot has repeatedly reinforced the salvation function of religions.

Religious Impact on Elliot

Those religion-oriented westerners could not bear the declaration made by Nietzsche that God has died by the end of 19th century, but what Nietzsche pointed out was merely the fact that loss of faith in God was looming ahead. Likewise, Elliot has also sensed this worsening reality and aired his view through his works, particularly “The Waste Land”. As a Christian humanist, Elliot held fast to the evil humanity by nature and emphasized that the only way to work this out was to revert to faith in God. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of his literature, in my eyes, is to lay the faith foundation for a society without any belief. The Idea of a Christian Society (published in 1939) has revealed Elliot’s ideas of establishing a Christian society where people can revert to Christian culture, regain the fear of religions, and only by this could the crisis of western civilization be eliminated; hence the need for founding a new epoch—Salvation. Elliot urged that a christianized society should be established with the view to continue the prosperity and boom of a society. In spite of the imminent prospects at least including binding forces, compulsion and discomfort, the only choice to avoid approaches to hell could be the entry to the Purgatory towards the Heaven. Thus, though admittedly water image in this long poem has been interpreted reasonably on different concepts, I still envisage the essence of water in this poem should be considered as Redemption and Resurrection in the respect of religions.

Redemption and Salvation

As the pillar of life, Water is the precious resource of considerable value on earth. The waste land that Elliot delineated is blatantly deprived of water. With the context of World War I in mind, I dare not view the listed echoed water is reducible to what we drink in our daily lives, though it does save life as well in “The Waste Land”. Take the twofold below as an example. On the one hand, the first section “ The Burial of the Dead” sees the first appearance of water in the 24th line — “And the dry stone no sound of water”, following “Son of man/ You can not say, or guess, for you know only/ A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,/ And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief”. The involved “Son of man”, “A heap of broken images”, and ”the dead tree gives no shelter ” are all cited from The Old Testament and describe the tragic fate of those anti-God to the effect that they are pre-destined to live on the bleak and desolate waste land with reality repugnant to their willingness. Therefore, “the dry stone” can be deemed as the spiritual emptiness of people tortured in the aftermath of the notorious WWI. Loss of faith in God leads to the abandonment by God, which triggers the further non-existence of hope, let alone redemption or salvation. Thereby “No sound of water” is the very absence of redemption. On the other hand, “The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring /Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring/ O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter/ And on her daughter /They wash their feet in soda water /Et, O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!” in the third section “The Fire Sermon” entails the water as well. In order to understand “water” here, we shall know that, for one thing, Mrs....
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