The Wasteland: Eliot and Arnold

The idea of culture proposed by Matthew Arnold is completely different than the kind of culture T.S. Eliot writes about. Arnold focuses on the lighter aspects of culture, while Eliot’s fragmented writing shows off the darker underbelly. Eliot writes of a desperate, hopeless time, that has no clear path. This contrasts wildly with Arnold who claimed that culture is sweet and light, and has one clear directional path. Arnold and Eliot have very different ideas on the culture of a society and how it should be written about. This is made known in the fragmented way in which Eliot writes. 

T. S. Eliot writes in what could be considered the opposite of Arnold. His style is fragmented with an unclear flow, showing the anxiety and hardship present in the people. Eliot’s use of references also calls to his exposure of the dark underbelly of the world. An example of this is shown, “Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,/ Had a bad cold, nevertheless/ Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe”(lines 43-45). Clairvoyantes are thought to be suspicious and untrustworthy and certainly not what Arnold had in mind, but they are who some people turn to in times of trouble and uncertainty. This quote demonstrates both Eliot’s use of fragmentation and references as differing from Arnold completely and as a way to show how the people felt at the time. Eliot’s time was considerably darker than Arnold’s and it showed in his writings and fragmentation. 

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