So why should April be the “cruellest month”? Anybody with a vaguely Christian background or knowledge will associate April with Easter… renewal, regeneration, rebirth, salvation, God, meaningfulness and certainty after a long frozen winter of doubt and dread. In places like Ontario (with real winters) the allusion to spring and the burial of the dead is clearer. You can’t did a grave in frozen ground. No wonder T. S. Eliot is an anagram of toilets: that’s where all hope stands ready to be flushed!
So what’s going on here? The mood of the poem is decidedly downbeat. Even if we don’t have a clue what Eliot’s trying to say, the disenchantment of the world is palpable. Blame it on Nietzsche? The “death of God” thing seems to have sent Eliot in a despairing direction. No God? No good then? No meaning? Just “fragments” of earlier illusory certainties… the false promises of the Torah’s commandments, Plato’s forms, or Hobbes’s natural laws. This at least is something says Eliot: fragments to be “shored against” his ruin. OK, well at least we still have sex! Not so fast… there’s nothing meaningful or fun going on there either. Consider the typist’s ho hum reaction to a lunch-time quickie with the “young man carbuncular.”
Begin by asking yourself why Eliot regards his world as a waste land when it contains so many of the features of our own. Or is ours a waste land too?
One Response to The Waste Land
T S Eliot = “toilets”? Excellent! The whole notion of waste/abject matter just expanded hugely for me. (The essay on “Eliot’s Waste Paper” by Tim Armstrong at the back of our edition actually picks up on some of this, better than I can.) Thanks, Rob.