Academy AP English Language 12
9 September 2012
Eliot’s Guide to Cultural and Personal Redemption
T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land has by far been the most challenging poem I have ever read. He uses vague and confusing imagery with a variety of sentence structures which almost comes off as gibberish. Although it is incredibly difficult to follow, the rather morbid tone of the poem is blatant. The overall idea of the poem is centered on an apocalyptic-like path that mankind ultimately brings upon them in search for answers. Reading more closely reveals his message about human fate: All of mankind will face death inevitably and, even then, no answers shall be given. This is gradually conveyed up until the last stanza where he hints that cultural and personal redemption are only achieved when humans take their final breath.
The general goals for any civilization are to grow, to expand, and to conquer. As a result, we see the destruction of empires and the rise of new ones. For the empires that fall, they either start again or perish to be only remembered by stories. While together man may prosper, by themselves they are in shambles, forever alone only to be distinguished by their cultural identities. Eliot portrays the desolate empire and the lost man by saying, “Fishing, with the arid plain behind me / Shall I at least set my lands in order? / London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down” (424-426). These lines imply the nearing death of the Fisher King who has seen his home diminish to dust. This relates to the second and third section of Eliot’s poem: “A Game of Chess” and “The Fire Sermon” which depict the only hope of replenishment of the land comes from reproduction. For the Fisher King to find salvation, he must experience catharsis through sexual renewal. However, this is contradicted with Tiresias who is both man and woman and is the opposition of fertility. Altogether, Tiresias is a contradiction to himself because...