The Waste Land Poem Themes

The Waste Land is a very important landmark in the twentieth century literature. The basic theme of the poem is the disillusionment of the post war generation and sterility of the modem man.

The poem reveals the disillusionment caused by the First World War. It vividly illustrates the complexity and machine-like activity of modem man comparing with the glorious past of spiritual and moral highness.

The critics have commented on the theme in different words:
1. Vision of desolation and spiritual drought (F.R. Leavis)
2. The plight of the whole generation (A. Richards)
3. A sigh for the vanished glory of the past (Cleanth Brooks)
4. There is a life in death, a life of complete inactivity, listlessness and apathy.(Stephen Spender)

Undoubtedly, The Waste land is full of diagnosis of the malady of our time. The disintegeration of modern civilization is due to several cause which are mentioned by Eliot in this poem. These are-
1. Sexual- pervation
2. Loss of faith and moral values ​
3. Lack of human relationship
4. Mental tension
5. Politics and wars

1. Sexual Perversion

Sex is an important aspect of life. It is an expression of love and means of procreation. But today sex has been perverted from its proper function and is being utilized for animal pleasure and monetary benefits. It has become a source of moral degradation.

It has also led to the erosion of moral values ​​and become a hurdle in man's spiritual progress. Easy sexual relationship is found among all sections of the society. Eliot cites the instance of German princess in the first part of the poem. This is the parallel to the love-affairs of Queen Elizabeth with the Earl of Leicester in the Tudor period.

There is also another instance of freedom of sex in high society. Eliot mentions it in the career of the lady of the situation.

In the second part of the poem, the perversion of sex, prevails among the lower classes of society. Eliot mentions of Lil and the experience of three daughter of Thames who live on being the objects of sexual enjoyment in exchange of money.

The mechanical sex relationship is also found in the love affair of the typist girl and her boy friend. Not only that Eliot also draws the picture of s homosexual relationship exemplified trough Mr. Eugenides.

Such perversion of sex results in neurosis, boredom, emotion, frustration and disillusionment, despair and hopelessness of the modem man. This is symbolized by the crowds flowing over London bridge, listless and apathetic with their eyes cast down.

2. Loss of moral values and faith

In ancient time, the source of spiration for life and achievement was faith. People really believed Christian values. Tradition increases the importance of moral conduct. Elderly people were respected. Character and saintliness are regarded as important assets. Moreover, more important than money and position was character and achievement.

All this is faithfully mirrored in The Waste Land. The source of inspiration and achievement was faith People really believed in Christian values in the past. But today the values have changed. Money is the god of the modern people. Older people are hated. Christians go to the church as a matter of routine.

The people begin their work at 9 o'clock which was the time of Christ's crucification. There is a gulf between profession and practice. Hypocrisy is at a premium. Flattery is more important than merit. The result is that Christian faith and compassion are no longer regarded as objects of life. This resulted in general deterioration of standard of life.

Our values are different from those of the past. We evaluate everything in the terms of money. Mr. Eugenides is an example of modem business man. He carries his contract and sample and documents and transit business in the hotel. He is also fond of homo- sex, and fulfills his desire with hotel boys.

Similarly, the company directors and the executives enjoy their leisure time with the beautiful girls of riversides.

3. Lack of human relationship

In older times, people believed in ultimate human relationship. There was the joint family system, under which resources were cooled and the needs of all were applied.

Today there is the fashion of nuclear families. In the old days there were certain loyalties to the community and loyalty to the intention. Such loyalties no longer exist.

People have become self-entred and egoistic. There is no sentiment of sympathy and impassion for the members of distant families and the community. Each one thinks only of his own interest and how he can gain at the expense of others.

Exploitation is the order of the day Eliot mentions the last section. As the poet feels that we are like Coriolanus and embodiment of selfishness. Each one is imprisoned in his own self We have lost the key of human sympathy and brotherhood.

4. Mental Tension

Modern psychologists have shown that the majority of people are abnormal. They suffer various types of mental illness on account of the worries and anxiety and challenges of the modern life. When man is unable to face a challenging situation, he feels tense and frustration. Similarly, sex, becomes a source of tension and despair.

In the second section intitled ‘A Game of Chess’ the poet deals with sex intrigues and sex perversions. The fashionable society-woman called the woman of Situation, is tired of her own life and has become extremely neurotic. Her lover, too, suffers from mental exhaustion. He says:
I think we are in rat's alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.
Similarly, Lil has lost her interest in life. She is unable to hold her husband who wants more and more of sex. Her abortion has ruined her health. She feels physically and mentally broken. Psychologically, the modern people are not satisfied with their getting. They seemed frustrated.

For example, Lil is frustrated because she is a woman of thirty-one and fails to hold her husband who wants more and more of sex.
Similarly, the fashionable society woman, the Lady of Situation is bored with her own life and has become extremely neurotic.

5. Politics and War

An important cause of disintegration of civilization is the enormous power wielded by politicians who have the power to make war against other countries, without tingling their own people. By their own action, they can bring miseries to their countrymen. Millions of people were stayed ted by war directly and indirectly. They had to wander as agrees in search of food and shelter. Their lamentation filled both and hills.

New political movement like October Revolution in 1917, shook the very foundations of European civilization. The communist killed ot of people and brought in a new system of government under Lenin. This kind of godless organization (communism) effected the faith of many Christian nations. All these events put together, shook entire Europe, thereby disturbing the prevailing value system.

Eliot draws upon the example of ancient history of Europe and India and shows how resurrection and re-birth is possible even today, The mythical method of Prajapati- Da Da Da suggests a unwilling remedy of the ills of the modern world.

Suffering and penance were instrumental in restoring man to regeneration and health in the past. Similarly, the present civilization can be saved by the same method. Eliot draws upon the example of ancient history of Europe and India and shows bow resurrection and rebirth is possible even today. The mythical method of Prajapati- Da Da Da suggests an until remedy of the ills of the modern world.

We may say that T.S. Eliot vividly portrays within the poem the image of disorder and decay of European society after the first war. Eliot presents this chaos and reference to similar periods within the history of man and brings about relationship between the past and therefore the present through the use of the mythical method.

Conclusion, Eliot has given a very clear picture of the spiritual chaos of European society after the First World War. But it may be noted that the decay of civilization is a part of the history of mankind. The crisis of the past quarter of the twentieth century was not a new event in the history of civilization. Such crises have occurred in the past and have formed a part of human culture.

Eliot presents the present chaos and relation to similar periods in the history of man and brings about relationship between the past and the present rough the employment of the mythical method. The resembling contrast between the past and the present show that the modern dilemma is a part of the universal and historic dilemma, namely the Survival of human culture and civilization.

In the past, suffering and penance were instrumental in restoring man to regeneration and health, similarly, the present civilization can be saved by the same method.
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