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T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land Is Characteristic Of The Modernist Literary Period

1273 words - 6 pages

The poem I am choosing to examine is T.S, Eliot's The Waste Land emerging from the Modernist poetic movement. The modern movement occurred after World War one (1914-1918). This war marked momentous changes on a global scale. Before 1914, English literature and it's ideas were in many ways still harking back to the nineteenth century: after 1918 Modern begins to define the twentieth century. Among the influences of Modernism were the rapid developments both socially and technologically. Also new theories of physics and psychology from those such as Sigmund Freud were among the advances of that era that inspired modernist poets.Some modernists were extremely pessimistic about modernity e.g. ...view middle of the document...

e. the narrative and the smooth, rational expositions. In its place came a fragmented and imagistic style concerned with a stream of consciousness and a sense of fragmentation both of individuality and of such concepts such as space and time. This fragmentation can be identified in Eliot's The Waste Land, which reads like a collection of fragments of poems; organized not as a narrative but as a collage. Eliot uses a numerous amount of characters in The Wasteland who move across a desolate landscape of fragmented images: A crowd flowed over London's Bridge, so many I had not thought death had undone so many (61,62) Instead of the traditional lyrical rhythms and conventionally beautiful and "˜poetic' images of pre war poets, Eliot uses images that shock and bewilder. They are images are striking and obscure, drawn from a jarring urban rather than a harmonious rural life. (1) In "What the Thunder said" from The Waste Land it reads What is the city over the mountains Cracks and reforms Falling towers Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London Unreal (366) The theme of the disintegration of pastoral life is an important aspect of the modern movement. People were no longer living happy, rural life and by necessity they were moving into the cities. Economic situations of that time compelled people to work in industrially advancing cities abandoning the countryside.This poetry is in no doubt quite difficult to read. Eliot explained his overall purpose himself: Any obscurity in the poem, on first readings, is due to the suppression of "˜links in the chain', of explanatory and connecting matter, and not to incoherence, or love of cryptogram. The justification of such abbreviation of method is that the sequence of images coincides and concentrates into one intense impression of barbaric civilization.(1) The reader is expected to build up meanings from the fragment Eliot produces. He gives no direct connotations to explain these images. Fragments broken from a whole are all that twentieth-century civilization has to interpret the world.The disharmony of modern society confused poets and they set out to discover the lost identity of society. This aspect can be identified in Eliot's use of reference and allusion to other works of the past: Dante's "Inferno", Wagner's operas, nursery rhymes, the Bible, Shakespeare, myth of the Holy Grail, Hindu scripture and many others. Eliot makes allusions to Dane's "Inferno": I had not thought death had undone so many.Sighs, short and...

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