• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Fragmentation in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Extracts from this document...


Verity Radley Fragmentation in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in 1921, as a response to the devastation he saw in society in the wake of World War 1. Critics at the time were divided: some believed it to be deliberately obtuse and unreadable, others "canonized the poem as the exemplar of a kind of high modernism that powerfully depicts and rejects modern life. One aspect of the poem that has never been disputed is the fragmentation that exists within it, and it is this that I intend to concentrate my essay on. Eliot, though he never openly chose to admit it, was influenced by the Imagist group of poets (which included Eliot close friend, Ezra Pound), who practised the theory that art should be made up of Images, not a lengthy description of feelings: one of the most important beliefs about art that Eliot shared with the Imagists was that "the writer should only present his observations to the reader, for he, like them, is a limited finite being."1 The emotion that the writer about a subject should not be the basis for the poem, only exactly what he sees, his immediate reaction to an event. In some of Eliot's earlier work, he showed evidence of Imagist tendencies: In The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock, for example, the famous line "Like a patient etherized upon a table," is an Image; the poet's immediate reaction unclouded by emotion. ...read more.


Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the whole poem."4 This suggestion is also highlighted in the text: "And I Tiresias have foresuffered all" (line 243), as if to suggest that he becomes almost omnipotent in the poem, seeing everything and experiencing everything that the different speakers experience, incorporating all aspects of their personalities into himself. The fragmentation in the poem extends to the poetic form of the poem. Whereas in some of Eliot's earlier poetry he experimented with rigid structure, in The Waste Land he appears to have returned to his beloved free verse. However, on closer examination it is clear that within this free verse Eliot employs short bursts of structure, partly as a homily to the poetic works of the past. In part 2, 'A Game of Chess', for example, the first half of the section depicting the upper class woman surrounded by wealth is written mainly in unrhymed iambic pentameter, growing more and more irregular to match the woman's increasingly disturbed thoughts. This contrasts directly with the structure in the second part of the section, which is purely a dialogue interrupted at intervals by the barman's "HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME". In part 3, 'The Fire Sermon', he juxtaposes his usual mixture of line length and erratic rhyme scheme with his inclusion of sections of ...read more.


They are designed to aid the reader's understanding of the poem, perhaps altering the meaning slightly in the process. Indeed, I cannot see how they can be viewed as theft, as quite often they are so hidden and well incorporated within the text of the poem, in fact they "do not seem to reinforce an otherwise approachable meaning but instead seem essential to the structure, not immediately perceivable, of the poem."6 For all literary allusions to be viewed as 'theft', would in fact, render most literature obsolete, as much of what makes up the literary Canon 'borrows' elements from other sources - Milton's Paradise Lost, for example. All The Waste Land serves to do is emphasize the borrowing culture of literature, hinting "that literature is nothing but a plague of echoes: that writing necessarily deserts its author, spreading like an epidemic into other texts."7 The myths that Eliot draws on form part of a group of recurring themes and images within the poem, the most prominent of which is that of Philomel, which appears in Ovid's Metamorphoses: Tereus, the King, rapes Philomel, his sister in law, before cutting out her tongue to stop her from telling anyone what has happened. However, she weaves the story of her plight into a tapestry to tell her sister, Procne, what has happened. The sisters then gain revenge on Tereus, by killing his son and feeding him to Tereus. They are then both transformed into birds - Philomel a nightingale, Procne a swallow - representing their escape from the harsh world around them. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. Chaucer's Favorable Treatment of Women's Plight for Equality

    Chaucer implies that-although his audience is not used to hearing of women's woes in marriage-they do exist. Chaucer's Alison further embodies feminism by defying Catholic virtues of virginity, saying that celibacy is for people who aspire to be perfect, whereas she does not.

  2. Medieval Literature 2, Testament of Cresseid: To what extent should the planetary gods be ...

    The poem was directed towards a medieval Christian audience, who would have understood that these pagan gods represented the planets, which were created and aligned by God, and thus represent God himself. This not only makes Cresseid's blasphemy a more serious matter, it also brings controversy to the question of

  1. The satirically reasonable voice of Desiderius Erasmus.

    They have met after Ogygius's pilgrimage to the shrines of St. James of Compostella, Our Lady of Walsingham, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. This dialogue provides Erasmus with the opportunity to satirize the long tradition of pilgrimages, saint-worship, and veneration of relics.

  2. Write an essay on the variety of ways in which Chaucer treats the subject ...

    Love is depicted thus as a power struggle, with the usage of rhetorical and psychological factors to control the other party: Manipulation through guilt and blame "deceite, wepyng, spynnyng", usage of stories and proverbs (the book of the 5th

  1. An Interpretation of Chaucer's "Dream Vision" Narrative Frame

    of Aeniad might have been told, had it been told from a woman's perspective. Perhaps the narrator is realizing that neither the men nor women are at fault for the woes of love. The eagle reveals that Jupiter has sent him to help enlighten the narrator, whom is oblivious to the wisdom of love.

  2. Are fairytales 'just' stories for children? Refer to at least two tales in ...

    Anderson continued writing his stories, and by the end of ten years was recognised as a master of this form of story. All of Andersen's tales - whether based on folk themes or of his own invention - had a personal touch to them: 'Most of what I have written is a reflection of myself.

  1. What is the Merchant like?

    There is evidence that the Merchant hates women and has a disillusioned view of marriage by connecting his experiences to those of January. Part of the Merchant's hatred for his wife is reflected in January's blindness to marital responsibility. The Merchant's blindness leads to the negative attitudes he develops about marriage and contributes to his bitterness.

  2. 'Langland's Piers Plowman greatly influenced The Canterbury Tales'. Discuss, with particular reference to estates ...

    which shows the general dissatisfaction of the exclusive nature of the bible, and the layman's inability to read it for himself.7 This 'glose' was used by the clergy to explain biblical ideas to the laymen, but it seems the information was often selective and could be used as a means of social control.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work