The Waste Land

What anxieties does The Waste Land seem to have about youth in the aftermath of WWI?

From the beginning of the poem, I was very taken by all of the references to other works that Eliot makes.  The Waste Land’s epigraph from Satyicon echoes the sentiment of the whole poem and what it was like during this era.  Sybil’s body is decaying, but she is unable to die.  This is similar to what happened after the war; society is literally crumbling all around them, and all they are left with is lamenting over the glory of how it used to be.

Even though the amount of lives lost was astronomical, the people that were left behind were deeply affected in their day to day lives.  In the wake of this grave devastation, “lilacs out of the dead land” were sprouting (Eliot line 2).  The beauty of a simple flower sprouting in the midst of a waste land reminds everyone that life must continue.  It’s a cruel reminder that instead of a field of wild flowers, it has literally become a waste land between the trenches, and a burial site for dead soldiers.  The landscape of life and the terrain have both been altered, and every aspect of culture and society was tainted by the war.  Life became very surreal after the war, and it would have been hard to have been a youth during that time period.  An entire generation was lost and they just have to go on with life the best that they can, but there’s also a sense of waiting.  With the references to Tristan and Isolde, I feel like the youth at the time were like Tristan when he was waiting for Isolde to arrive as he was dying; he was “neither / Living nor dead, and [he] knew nothing” (Eliot lines 39-40).  There was just this anticipation in the air of what was to come next.  There was also a tension they must have been experiencing between moving on and remembering.


2 thoughts on “The Waste Land

  1. I agree with you in that the survivors of WWI had a sense that they had lost life. It also seemed to me that the general feel of the poem changed as it progressed. In the beginning, the poem was reminiscent of better days. During this part though, everything was clear and easier to understand. However, as the poem went on the general sense became frantic and less clear (maybe symbolizing “shell shock” or PTSD). We see this by the random interruptions of odomonpias, “Weialala leis…” (290)

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