Whose Waste Land?

The first time reading through this, I was curious to read all the footnotes (regardless of reading Kevin’s blog just before hand) because I found them interesting in themselves, and at times useful. Let’s just say that I’m really grateful for my English lit 12 class. However, I was considerably confused at some of Eliot’s transitions and connections; he appeared to flit about suddenly and randomly at times, leaving me still questioning the previous section but there was no answer. But I suppose that is poetry for T.S. Eliot.

After the second time reading this though, I enjoyed the feeling of Eliot creating circles of connections in each segment of the poem. There is the overarching theme of showing a barren emotional wasteland in a city that is portrayed as being magnificent. England and London are usually portrayed in two lights: the established, dignified and what-is-thought-to-bring-you-happiness (wealth, security, companionship), and then the poor, dirty, primitive, “slums” of British society.  I find connecting strangers through their individual stories that all share a common aspect intriguing. Here, I read the poem as connecting all of the different stories, books, plays, etc. that Eliot was alluding to, along with stories that were existing in the everyday life around him. I did find it interesting that a fair amount of the poem was centered around the everyday objects found in both elements of British society, along with women. While he takes time and words to describe innate objects such as a chair “held up by standards”(line 79), he shows intimate moments of women’s lives in brief but descriptive depictions. Why is this important? I don’t know, but it is interesting to see the woman who is “hardly aware of her departed lover; allows one half-formed thought to pass: “Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.” (lines 251-2) Here a circle is formed: she is stuck in winter. Winter being a place where things can be forgotten and left behind; a mentality that allows for people to be in a situation they don’t want to be in, and survive.  Neither her, nor the “lover”, nor the society that Eliot sees around him, is really living if they are in a place of forgetting what happened in the past, along with everyday life.

So, those are some thoughts from before the seminar today. Can’t say that I really see humor in this poem just yet, but thanks for a new idea of how to look at this, Jon.

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