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Structure and the major themes of T.S.Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”

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Structure and the major themes of T.S.Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”
Discuss the structure and the major themes of T.S.Eliot’s poem
“The Waste Land”

“The Waste Land” (1922) is one of the most outstanding poems of the 20th century written by the great master Thomas Stearns Eliot. The poem expresses with great power the devastation, decay, futility and despair of the civilization after World War I. In this essay I would like to comment upon the structure as well as the prevalent themes elaborated in the poem. The main themes of “The Waste Land” are : Eliot’s portrait of women, or the female characters as presented in the poem and the metaphor of the title and the emptiness and sterility of the modern world.

The poem “The Waste Land” is divided into five parts: “The Burial of the Dead” , “A Game of Chess”, “The Fire Sermon”, ”Death by Water” and “What the Thunder Said”. It opens with an intriguing epigraph dedicated to Ezra Pound. It consists of 434 lines and it’s regarded as one of the longest poems, if not the longest, in English literature. It is a highly complex poem and it requires the reader to be competent in order to fully understand the poem. Professor Z. Ancevski said: “The poem is filled with sudden and unexpected breaks which lead to contextual and intertextual narrative, not linear”(Ancevski,2003). And indeed, we can clearly see how Eliot quotes Shakespeare, incorporates allusions to myths, symbols, religion, history, both past and present he also puts some parts from the alternative poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and many more. Furthermore, he uses juxtaposition of scenes and images without any explanation of what they are doing together and there is no author’s voice to tell us where we are. The structure of “The Waste Land” is vastly different from any other poem and it owes mostly to the Imagists and the French symbolists such as Charles Baudelaire, Jules Laforgue and especially Ezra Pound.

One of the most important themes in the poem is the way in



References: 1. Ancevski, Zoran (2003) T.S. ELIOT PESNI. Skopje, Magor 2. Professor Zoran Ancevski lectures 3. Abrams, M. H. et all., Norton Anthology of English literature, vol. 2, 5th ed, New York: Norton and Co. Inc., 1979

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