MODERNISM IN CONTEXT 1. Essay----Any One:
1. Comment on the characters in THE WASTELAND.
The poem was written in 1922 immediately after the first World War and the poet makes a statement on the decadence and degradation in human values that had led to the war.It is a masterpiece of modernist poetry written in five sections. Europe is alluded to as the modern wasteland and the poem is largely located in London and the river Thames. The protagonist in the poem is Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes who had to convey to Oedipus the meaning of the riddle connected with Oedipus.In this poem Eliot has woven a an intricate pattern of verse which despite its interwoven strands, taken from history, anthropology, myths, of countries and cultures which were once famous and well known. These allusions and references from the past and the present , present a visual and metaphorical collage of seemingly disparate ideas, joined together to a theme of life, decadence,death,and rebirth. The poem is narrated in the first person narrative voice of Tiresias, the narrator -protagonist who has seen it all--past , present as well as future. Eliot has depended for his source on two seminal contemporary works- Frazer's Golden Bough, and Jessie L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance. While the frist deals with the myth of the Fertility cults which formed an integral part of Eastern civilization; the second one describes the Legend of the Holy Grail.In both the stories there is a quester who seeks to release the waste land from the curse it is suffering from. The first section titled 'Burial of the Dead', begins with the narrative voice of Tiresias , voicing the condition and ethos of the inhabitants of the waste land. They consider April to be the cruellest month , because they do not wish to be awakened from their death-like existence into a meaningful living.They like the winter because "nothing grows , and nobody lives".The character of Tiresias is omniscient through out the poem, for he is the poet's mouthpiece as well as commentator of the deterioration the world is witnessing in terms of moral and ethical values. Another character introduced in the same secton is Madame Sosostros, the clairvoyant , who predicts the future, using a pack of Tarot cards. As she too is an inhabitant of the wasteland, she cannot see the "hanged Man", just like she warns the Phoenecian sailor to "fear death by water." But unlike the Fertility myths, that necessiated the death by drowning of the God who would then release the land from its curse of sterility,here nothing like this is promised. This section has refence to two more violent deaths: that of the Austrian Empress, Marie Vatsera, who was killed for having loved Archduke Rudolph. Also mentioned in the same section is the death of Archduke Ludwig who due to mental illness, drowned himself in lake Starnbergessee near Munich. The second section titled. A Game of Chess elaborates on the immorality and sexual indiscipline that had become the norm of life in European society. The section ironically describes an exotic bed chamber of a lady, persumably waiting for her client or lover, who makes no committments whatsoever.She is Belladona , the lady of situations. She is representativeof the modern woman, who has no qualms in entering into brief sexual flings with strangers. This present moral laxity is juxtaposed with the story of Philomel of the Greek mythology. She is said to have been raped by King Tereus and the outraged maiden then changed into a nightingale, so great was her sorrow. She then chose to inhabit the desert and she sang into the desert air with her "inviolable voice". The second section ends with the reference to another couple of...
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