Stability Versus Change and Metamorphosis in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".

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Stability versus Change and Metamorphosis in T.S. Eliot 's The Waste Land.

When one reads The Waste Land for the first time, it may be difficult to extract some clear meanings out of the poem. The common reader is used to expect some uniformity and wholeness, some kind of unity or continuity in one or various aspects in any piece of writing he or she comes across. Therefore, when one has to face a poem like this one, the sensation of puzzlement, confusion and powerlessness is unavoidable. Even scholars who may perfectly know and feel familiar with all the allusions and intertextuality present in the poem, have often felt outraged at the obscurity and apparent lack of cohesive meaning in it. We have to bear in mind that the element that links the different parts of the poem is none other than the constant struggle between stability and change, the “proper” and the “improper”, fertility versus barrenness. If you realise this, you may approach the poem in a different way, and even if you fail to meet the “erudition requirements” that TWL seems (at first) to expect from the reader, you may extract some deeper meaning out of this Modernist masterpiece. It has often been argued that T.S. Eliot’s poem lacks a theme or argument, because there is no spatial or temporal continuity in it. However, the whole poem may be seen as a series of sequences of dreamlike (or nightmarish) situations in which we may find a constant in the opposition between two juxtaposed worlds. First, a world full of order in which we can find a clear voice, a world where we may find a reference, a “proper” world; and then a chaotic one which expands into a whirlwind of voices and images difficult to comprehend, a world where the speakers are expressing their desire for reference and stability, the “improper” one. The tension which creates the desire of stability and the constant and inevitable change is what makes the poem flow rapidly from one image and situation to another, as we will see



References: Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume D, 7th edition, 2007, pp. 1587-1599.

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