T.S. Eliot the Wasteland Essay

1346 Words Oct 22nd, 2011 6 Pages
Write a critical analysis, focusing particularly on what makes your chosen passage a piece of Modernist writing.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
…show more content…
Will it bloom this year?”[14] indicate that this rebirth is somehow tainted. The “corpse of last year” alludes to the failures of tradition that have inevitably “sprouted and bloomed” resulting in war and present malaise. The situation is mirrored in the allusion to Sibyl’s foolish neglect to request eternal youth and her subsequent atrophy. The allusion to Cornelia’s burial of her son[15] foreshadows a premature decomposition of this rebirth. Eliot’s inherent pessimism is characteristic of Modernist literature.

The fragmented content and polyphonic narrative style confounds readers and encompasses the obscurity of The Waste Land. One questions if Eliot is deliberately being obscure, making us grasp at numerous empty interpretations. Dissolution of time is illustrated by the disparate allusions in lines “Flowed up the hill and down King William Street”[16] and “You who were with me in the ships at Mylae”[17]. Eliot blurs the borders between time and space, placing present London and past Mylae side by side. Eliot’s admission that his notes provided “a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view to-day”[18] denies readers any affirmation of discerning The Waste Land’s true meaning. We thus experience “the groundlessness of aspiration and the vanity of endeavour” as Richards expounds upon, joining the

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