Modernism in The Waste Land - Free Essay in Literature

Published: 2022-03-02
Modernism in The Waste Land - Free Essay in Literature
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Poem Literature
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 566 words
5 min read

Modernism can be defined as a literary movement of the early twentieth century characterized by a desire to abandon past ideologies and traditions, and to alter the purpose, structure, and themes of literature. It spurred writers to find new ways of looking at, and describing the world. The Waste Land by T.S Eliot is considered among the most important poems of that century. It explores modernity and the missing connection between fine art and high culture. This essay looks at modernism in The Waste Land and analyses modernist themes, characteristics, and style.

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The poem is set in a post-first world war timeline where everything appears desolate, and highlights a whole culture that is in crisis. It is divided into five sections, each of which focuses on a different issue. The Burial of the Dead plays the role of an introduction since it sets the stage for the themes appearing in the poem. A contradiction between what the speaker says and common ideas is evident in the first stanza, and heralds the theme of chaos that occurs throughout the poem. April is referred to in the first line as the cruelest month although it is during spring that new life begins (Eliot, l1). The line implies that the poem's speaker may have been afraid of the natural life and death cycle. The phrase 'Winter kept us warm' (5) contradicts the notions of isolation and death associated with winter by implying that the season offers warmth and security.

The introductory section is narrated using the first-person narrative style. The way personal pronouns are utilized throughout the work implies that there is no omnipresent being, thus supporting the modernist notion that God does not exist. This style also venerates the individual's significance. The structure is another trait evident in stanza one of the section. The poet applies old English poetic techniques such as syllables in every line, a scant end rhyme, and line structure. He also uses alliteration as observed in lilacs/land, winter/warm, and forgetful/feeding.

Some of the poem's most important imagery is introduced in The Burial of the Dead. For example, the phrase "I will show you fear in a handful of dust...... (30)" could indicate the fear brought about by lack of water and the subsequent drought, hence supporting the theme of destruction. The section also contains a symbol of sex depicted by a hyacinth. There is also the false prophet called Madame Sosostris who reads tarots and gives a warning about 'death by water' (55). Eliot later re-examines this topic in the fourth section titled Death By Water. It implies that the society has been made to believe something that is not true, and peace can only be found through the unpleasant process of death by water.

Eliot examines various topics in the next four sections of The Waste Land. They range from mundane sexual encounters, Greek mythology, and the passing away of a sailor. At some point, it becomes virtually impossible to follow when read for the first time. This shows that the poet succeeds in pressurizing readers to be conscientious. The poem acts as an outlet for his anxieties to do with the loss of moral and cultural. He is expressing his disapproval of his surroundings in a society just after the end of the First World War.

Works Cited

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The waste land and other poems. Broadview Press, 2010. Print.

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