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The Burial of the Dead

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Introduction

Poets are quite fond of using nature imagery to enhance different aspects of character, and this is no different in TS Eliot's "The Burial of the Dead". The poem deals with the people of the Wasteland, a place where nothing grows and spiritual decay is abundant all around. The people of the Wasteland let materialistic desires dominate their bodies, resulting in the loss of moral values, which Eliot explores in the first installment of the Wasteland. The passivity of the people residing in the Wasteland is shown through light imagery, which in turn brings out the decay present all around. There is a lot of usage of different aspects of the "sunlight" and "shadows", and little anecdotes provide a detailed account of the type of decay in the Wasteland. The first mention of light is in an indirect manner, juxtaposing April as "the cruelest month". April, a time where spring is at its peak and is blooming with light, nature, color and fertility is ironically portrayed as a cruel month, because of its ability to mix "memory with desire". The rejuvenation and new beginning in the season is paralleled to the change in the mental state of the people of the Wasteland. ...read more.

Middle

The sun and the rain are metaphors for the trigger to the mental state of a being, kind of like an alarm clock, but the constant dousing of the trigger through means of physical comfort brings out a conflict, between man and nature. At this point, it is evident that the people of the Wasteland are most comfortable with only two elements of nature, darkness and ice. The snow and the darkness is symbolic of the nature of the people in the Wasteland, as it is frigid and cold, which is parallel to the selfish and materialistic nature of them. Marie's "staying at the archduke's" is proof to this, as she is selfishly spending her time in vacation during the post-war era. The seasonal imagery used here, brings out the theme of materialism. Moral decay is illustrated in a more effective manner in the second stanza, with several mentions of the result of the sun's rays. The sun is a contrasting element in the "stony rubbish", but all traces of its radiance and hope is eliminated by the harsh word "beats". The sun's rays, although hardly felt, are ironically beating the people there. The sun's effect dries up water and life, producing "dead trees" and "dry stone". ...read more.

Conclusion

The word "striding" establishes an image of something taking long steps, and this illustrates death striding behind a person, showing how it is still far off. But in the evening the shadow is "rising to meet you", and evening is the metaphor for old age, where the path is now crowded with shadows of death, ready to take you away. This light imagery is used to accentuate the theme of ordeals, and shows the suffering of the people of the Wasteland. They are dead mentally, and show no effort to recover, although there is a constant provocation for them to wake up. ("spring rain", "sunshine", "sled") In a way, the people are making no effort to choose the path of light, but instead are like the old people facing death, almost as if they wished for it. Their passivity is the main reason for their mental decay, as well as their selfish natures. Through all this light imagery, the readers can focus on the death and decay that is so abundant, and there is a contrast in that statement too, because of the hopeful nature of light. The passivity of the Wasteland contributes to the deterioration of spiritual values, as there is no effort made to survive again. ...read more.

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