The Confusion of T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot writes in a style that greatly contrasts with Matthew Arnold’s notion of culture.  In “Culture and Anarchy,” Arnold describes what culture really is in his eyes.  He claims “Culture is then properly described not as having is origin in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection, it is a study of perfection.”  He also says that it is not just “the scientific passion, the sheer desire to see things as they are,” but a perspective in which the “desire for removing human error” make the world a better place.

When first reading “The Wasteland,” my immediate reaction was to think “T.S. Eliot’s poem makes no sense at all.”  He constantly jumps from idea to idea which makes it very difficult to even know what he is talking about.  Although the language itself is much simpler than what we are used to reading in this class (shorter sentences and less complex words), it is just as difficult to understand because of the constant change in plot and the lack of description of what is actually going on.  For example, in the second section, Lil says, “I can’t help it…It’s them pills I took, to bring it off.”  Eliot does not describe her situation any further and the reader is supposed to understand that Lil is talking about getting an abortion.  It is this style of writing that throws me off.  I had to look up online what the story actually talks about, and even that was confusing.  Much of this confusion is due to the fact that the story is broken up into five different sections or fragments, many of which are composed with quotes from other writers.  “The Wasteland” is far from Arnold’s idea of perfection and “seeing things as they are” as it is not a complete piece of literature, but rather a combination of different pieces, much like Frankenstein (the character, not the story).  In my opinion, it is much more enjoyable to read something that is concise and complete rather than something that looks like it was thrown together from five different stories.


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