AD's English Literature : Critical Appreciation of T.S.Eliot's " The Waste Land": The Poem That We Should Keep In Mind Before Attending Modern Materialistic Civilization!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Critical Appreciation of T.S.Eliot's " The Waste Land": The Poem That We Should Keep In Mind Before Attending Modern Materialistic Civilization!

 

Introduction: Having viewed the modern materialistic civilization from the view-point of spiritualism and Christian Existentialism, T.S. Eliot has represented his reaction in the form of this poem entitled The Waste Land. It is a symbolical poem composed in the style of poetic esotericism, “Formally the poem has been described as a much of ideas and as a poetic cryptogram”. As such his is the poem of myth and symbols, of a series of trains of thoughts whose parts look unconnected with one another.

The Epigraph: The poem bears an epigraph written partly in Latin and partly in Greek. The speaker in the epigraph says that he has noticed the Sibyl at Cymae hanging in a cage and wishing to die; but she could not die because she was almost immortal by virtue of a boon from Apollo. According to recent criticism, the Sibyl hanging in a cage represents the human soul hanging in the cage of Materialism. Being immortal, the soul can’t die. But it is highly miserable, since the materialistic man is constantly haunted by anxiety, cares, worries etc. he is all “fear in a handful of dust”.

The title words: The title of the poem The Waste Land has been inspired by Miss Dessie L. Weston’s book from Ritual to Romance. It refers to a Waste Land described in one of the Grail Romances. The Land was ruled by the Fisher king. He along with his knights ravished certain maidens who were guardians of the Grail mysteries. Because of that outrage, he became impotent and fell ill, and his land became Waste. Eliot has represented in his poem the modern materialistic world as the wasteland, and its rulers as the modern materialistic man – He has profaned the mysteries of life and being, namely the Soul and God. Consequent upon his outrage, he has become spiritually impotent and has fallen ill with misery and his land has become Waste spiritually.

The Theme stated through symbolism: The doctrine of Spiritualism, asserts that in the universe all the material forms are unreal. The immortal soul is the only reality and it has real existence apart from matter. The doctrine of Christian Existentialism holds that man must raise his soul above the sins of the Flesh and the temptation of wealth. 
In order to illustrate his point of view, the poem surveys the evil effects of Materialism on the modern society of the West. In part-I he shows that the materialistic society is ruled by sensualism, unholy love, fraud as reflected in Madame Sosostri’s Clairvoyance, and misery born of materialistic desires. In part-II the poet opines that the modern woman considers life a game of chess in which she has to keep her lover under her power by means of her beauty and cosmetics till another lover knocks at the door. In Part-III, he shows that the modern men are burning in the fire by unholy love. The part-IV, he suggests that commercialism leads the modern man only to mirage and death. In part-V the poet sums up the nature of The Waste Land and its impotence. In fact, ‘here is no water but only rock’. The water of selfless love and compassion if missing in modern sphere, there is ‘rocks’ metonymy for materialistic thoughts and deeds. If sensual pleasures, madness for worldly riches and wealth be the crux of modern Waste land, there are three gates to man’s Salvation – Datta, Dayandham and Damayanta.

Who the protagonist?: With fragmentary passages, literary quotations and allusions, there is an apparent lack of logical relationship along them. The reason is that the whole poem is a stream of consciousness in verse of one personage, Tiresias. He is the protagonist. Almost immortal, blind, bisexual he is the hidden poet, the very learned. Through memories, meditations, literary quotations, allusions and implicit contrasts his is the view of materialistic world.

Style & Versification: In esoteric style with missing links, quotations from foreign literature, use of myths and symbols are the key points in the poem. The tendency to suppress defining links may be traced back to the French symbolist. The Waste Land symbol is based on the myth of the Grail legend. This symbol has been developed by means of the vegetation myth with the rites of fertility found in ancient Eastern cults. Further, the poem is of striking speech rhythms for a sudden tightening, for a cumulative insistence, or for an abrupt change of mood. In conversational passages the speech rhythm gets down to colloquial level.

Conclusion: To conclude, The Waste Land is “the most notable single poem” of the modern age. It “goes beyond a mere diagnosis of the spiritual distempers of the age; it is a lament over man’s fallen nature, a prophecy and a promise”. According to prominent critic, it has serious defects. They are inherent in its origin and in method. He observes:
                                 “The Waste Land does not carry within itself all that is necessary for understanding. Its structural basis lies in a special branch of learning, and it involves continual references to other branches of knowledge with which few readers can be acquainted. The piece is not a self contained study”.( G. Bullough.)

15 comments:

  1. Hello Sir,
    Goodevening.

    Sir, I just given exam of B.A. final year in 2011. Further now, I want to do M.A.English.
    So, I filled a form of Ambedkar University(Delhi).

    I can't getting understand what prep shoul I do and from where, so that I can crack the entrance exam.....

    Please help me sir....
    gargnavin88gmail.com....
    hope for soon reply....

    thnx.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear AAdi

    Thanks for your comment.

    As far as as your queries are concerned, i can say that most of the M. A. admission test consists of questions covering the history of English literature, the history of English language, and Indian writing in English and other third world literature. So keep your basics clear and strong. i hope you can do that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello sir your blog is a boon for all literature loving students. Can you help me by suggesting some good topics for research or Ph.d in Indian english literature.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Nagendra, thanks for your comment.

    In the Indian English you can do the research on variegated topics. however, here i quote a few:

    1. Living in a post-colonial world (Diaspora Writers)
    2. The regional literature of modern India
    3. The story of once-prominent family’s decline
    4. Fusion of Western and Eastern philosophy (Tagore)
    5. Realistic portrayals of the poor (Mulk Raj Anand)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Sir,

    You are doing a great job by offering your helping hand to the students.its laudable task indeed.Sir i would like to request you to write something on Indian writing in English and third world literature. I am not aware of whether you have posted anything related to it or not but if not please do that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Respect,


    Sir, your blogs are of immense help indeed.And i request you to post somtehing on contemporary literary theory. For this how much do we need to prepare and from where. The topics like Feminism, Structuralism, post-structuralism, modernism , post-modernism etc.I am never able to attempt my answers well on these topics.As i am preparin for the M.phil tests.
    Kindly Help.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Respect,


    Sir, your blogs are of immense help indeed.And i request you to post somtehing on contemporary literary theory. For this how much do we need to prepare and from where. The topics like Feminism, Structuralism, post-structuralism, modernism , post-modernism etc.I am never able to attempt my answers well on these topics.As i am preparing for the M.phil tests.
    Kindly Help :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Respect,


    Sir, your blogs are of immense help indeed.And i request you to post somtehing on contemporary literary theory. For this how much do we need to prepare and from where. The topics like Feminism, Structuralism, post-structuralism, modernism , post-modernism etc.I am never able to attempt my answers well on these topics.As i am preparing for the M.phil tests.
    Kindly Help :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. sir, am in 3rd sem of m.a in eng under gauhati university. Am facing a severe problem with criticism paper. My exam is heading from 20th jan.
    New criticism, the heresy of paraphrase(brooks), the line of wit(leavis), tradition and individual talen(eliot), russian formalism, art as technique(viktor shklovsky), literary theory: a composite view, major movements, structuralism to post structuralism, jacques derrida, roland barthes, psychoanalysis and jacques lacan, feminism.

    Bhattacharjeemohor@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Respected sir, I am persuing m.a English and there is a paper related to our research on any topic and I have taken The Waste Land so plz tell how to prepare it n from where do i get the material...i have to prepare critical appriciation of this poem..plzz advice me..

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks everybody for commenting here.... keep updated by following @ FB or G+

    ReplyDelete
  12. Respected sir, I am persuing m.a English and there is a paper related to our research on any topic and I have taken The Waste Land so plz tell how to prepare it n from where do i get the material...i have to prepare critical appriciation of this poem..plzz advice me..

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dear Rohit, will you please tell me the detailed topics?

    ReplyDelete
  14. sir, your texts are very useful, i often use for my class assignments.im studying in MA, next sem we have a project so i have to choose a best topic. im thhinking to do fiction novel based on aterm (like realism, magical realism,etc) can suggest a novel with a term

    ReplyDelete
  15. sir, your texts are very useful, i often use for my class assignments.im studying in MA, next sem we have a project so i have to choose a best topic. im thhinking to do fiction novel based on aterm (like realism, magical realism,etc) can suggest a novel with a term

    ReplyDelete

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