Time Passes

“Time Passes” is the shortest part of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and displays a stark contrast from the first part of the novel. One thing I found to be very interesting is that this piece is the shortest in the whole novel, yet the largest part of time passes in “Time Passes.” I also found it interesting how it seems that the point of view changed in comparison to “The Window.” In “The Window,” the reader was able to not only see the way that each character was acting, but also the way that each character was thinking and feeling, and how that could have contradicted to their action. In “Time Passes”, this was not a common occurrence. In fact, the house is somewhat personified in this context because we see how it changes. In “Time Passes” the house is vacant and ultimately falling apart. This vacancy and absence to me seems to be a parallel to what happened in Europe during World War I. Though World War I was not actively taking place in Britain, and it was at times thought of as something going on “over there” ti still greatly impacted the people because of the loss of those around them.

Time Passes

“Time Passes” is an appropriate title for this section of Woolf’s novel.  The first section of the novel felt as if time were standing still.  Mr. Ramsey’s thoughts, for example, take up substantial space within the novel while progressing very little of the plot.  As he walks around thinking on how Shakespeare is irrelevant, he slows the plot down to a mere crawl.  This contrasts greatly with the form of “Time Passes” say many important things in a short amount of time.  Late in the passage, Woolf writes “So she was dead; and Mr.  Andrew killed, and Miss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but everyone had lost some one these years”(77).  The twenty year time-travel is evident in this passage through its simulation of the effect of a whiplash speed of time; one only has time to see brief important things and repeat them later as a representation of the whole.  Furthermore, Miss Prue’s death in childbirth represents the inability to reproduce and continue time through human’s own ability, as if time continues while leaving humanity behind.  The irrelevance of man in the riptide of time is evident again through the observation of the cook.   Woolf writes of “The cook now, Mildred, Marian, some such name as that”(77).  The phrasing implies that the cook is a replacement whose name is not worth memorizing, possibly referencing how soon she will be gone too and thus replaced by another nameless cook.

The passage connects with World War I in its confusing and quick movements characterized fewer insights into the characters themselves.  “The Window” contained multiple passages that delved deep into the psyche of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, while “Time Passes” implies that the replacement cook, who will soon be replaced herself, is not worth the time taken to memorize her name. In addition, Woolf juxtaposes stillness and chaos with day and night as she says “the stillness and brightness of the day were as confusing as the chaos and tumult of the night” (76). Historians characterize World War I as an unusually uniform war.  Two trenches: one side attacks, the other attacks subsequently, and it goes on. The war dragged on for such a monotonous stalemate that any sort of stillness in the constant fighting would be alien and disorienting.  The passage as a whole uses the speed of time, which was proven to be relative in the early 1900’s, to bring out a meaning of the War’s ability to warp time.  Nature continues on, patient as usual, while humanity gets caught in its own storm, getting left behind in the night.

Time Passes

Time Passes is the shortest part of “To the Lighthouse” yet the longest span of time. The first part focuses on one day yet is over a hundred pages long whereas Time Passes is less than 25 pages. Also unlike The Window, it is told through a nonhuman perspective, focusing mainly on the house and the changing weather. In the first half there are many different perspectives from the people staying in the house. They wonder about their life and how much they have done. They think about their impact in the world and in this section of the book Woolf provides the answer to that. One way she does this is by mentioning the deaths in brackets saying how Mrs. Ramsey, “died suddenly the night before,” or how “Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay.” They seem to be after thoughts and give us an idea of how much time has passed and what is going on in the world. How she introduces them shows the insignificance they hold compared to time. Time keeps moving on no matter what else is happening and is portrayed in a somewhat mechanical way.

The deterioration of the house and Mrs. McNabs struggle to clean it conveys feelings of WWI. Mrs. McNab is an old woman and is seeing this grand house and the remnants of the people that stayed there decay and be taken over by nature. It talks about how rain came in, things had gone mouldy and the attics being inhabited by rats. Finally Mrs. McNab gives up, thinking, “It is too much for one woman, too much, too much.” This portrays the overwhelming feeling that WWI brought and the inability to deal with it. This could also pertain to the “shell shock” that soldiers experienced and woman’s struggle to deal with them due to lack of knowledge on PTSD during that time. Just like the house, men’s minds deteriorated and like Mrs. McNab, women felt that they could not help them by themselves.

The deaths during Time Passes also show the effects of WWI. Mrs. Ramsay’s death is the fall of the Victorian woman. She played the domesticated wife whose duty was to nurture her children and worry over men, and her death marks the fall of these characteristics. Prue’s death comments on beauty, youth, and fertility. Andrew whose future was so bright in his parents eyes shows how war ended that hope. Overall their deaths and the state of the house convey uncertainty and lack of hope for the future.

“Time Passes”

The mechanic of time works very differently in the second section of To The Lighthouse than it does in the first section. In the first section time passes extremely slowly, sometimes even stopping, and great emphasis is put on the interior of characters minds. In “Time Passes” this seems to flip. Time at the house is going by quickly, jumping from season to season, year to year. This section also is interested in the exterior, specifically what the house looks like. “The swallows nested in the drawing=room; the floor was strew with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls; rafters were laid bare.”(137) This section also under-emphasizes the actual characters of the story by related the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay, Prue, and Andrew all within brackets as if that information were an aside. This makes the section feel extremely dehumanized which mirrors the sense of dehumanization felt by the survivors of WWI. “Time Passes” presents the cruelty of nature, especially in its ability to continue on cyclically without the need for human life.

To the Lighthouse – “Time Passes”

In the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf greatly speeds up the way she conveys time. She goes from devoting over one hundred pages to a single day in Part I to devoting less than twenty pages to ten years’ passing. Time is an important concept in this novel, and it is represented differently in the different parts. In “Time Passes,” time is represented in a more conventional and harsh way than it is in Part I. Part I focuses on the many details of a particular day and also expounds on the thoughts of several characters. “Time Passes,” in contrast, does not focus on people and their thoughts but rather on time’s effect on physical things, such as the house. For example, the narrator says that “a thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder,” “swallow nested in the drawing-room,” and “the floor was strewn with straw” (137). I think that Woolf chose to convey time in this way during the war period because people felt like they had no control over what was happening and began to feel like their lives were essentially meaningless. Time took over everything, and there was no stopping it. In “Time Passes,” Mrs. Ramsay (the protagonist), Prue, and Andrew all died; this signifies that even the most promising and good people are overtaken by time. The fact that each of their deaths was described quite frankly and briefly in brackets emphasizes the alienation and disillusionment that people felt as they watched the death toll from WWI rise to extreme figures. People knew what was happening, yet they could not process it. In “Time Passes,” the Ramsay family is all but destroyed, and this represents the state of Europe during and after WWI.

“Time Passes”

The “Time Passes” section in Virginia Woolf’s Novel To the Lighthouse dramatically changes the perception of time by condensing ten years of turmoil into only 20 pages. In the first section “The Window” she uses time to deeply describe the psychology of time rather than the chronology of it which portrays the world as a more internal intuition rather than material process. In this section Woolf depicts the cruel effect of time on objects such as the beach house and its contents instead of the personal development of her characters. The Ramsey’s fear of time is finally gaining merit as the legacy and work of some characters are slowly erased by time. The bracketed sentences about Prue and Andrews death create a lack of emotion for such events and depict something of breaking headlines or military orders. This shift from psychologic perception of time to the new chronologic passing of time causes the characters to be revered as secondary supporters to a much bigger picture. This mentality validates Mr. Ramsey’s original thoughts of how a simple stone will outlive us all. How nature is everlasting but the turmoil within each character can cause vast amounts of change in short amounts of time. After the strong winds redesign the landscape, the barren life that the lighthouse now maintains is an eerie remembrance of what life used to be. “A pair of shoes, a shooting cap, some faded skirts, and coats in wardrobes – those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated;…” (pg. 123). This new environment mixed with the tragedies each character endured miniaturizes he European emotion as a whole after WW1. Prue’s death in childbirth diminishes the continuity of life while Andrew’s death brings out the impact of war. After everything comes to a close the Ramsey’s struggle to continue in their daily life confidently which represents the postwar state of mind of all of Europe.

To The Lighthouse: Time Passes

In the Time Passes section, Woolf uses a much quicker and shorter usage of time. Instead of spending an entire section to describe the actions of the family on one day, as she did in section 1, Woolf spends a much shorter amount of pages describing 20 years. She also uses mostly non-human entities to describe the passage of time instead of actual humans. Though she says that summers and winters pass through the house’s life, she doesn’t out-right say how much time has passed until she uses brackets and thoughts by Mrs.McNab.

The brackets are used to express that the events within the brackets are happening elsewhere. We can see this when she writes on page 133, “{A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up i France, among them Andrew Ramsey, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous.}” This is a sudden departure from the ghost-like description of the aging house to let the reader know that the war was happened and a major character has died. This is said so quickly and without warning so that Woolf’s form may embody how people experienced the war when it happened. It may be in brackets to also let the reader know that the house only knew that time was passing, not that major tragedies were happening.

The thoughts by Mrs.McNab are used to bring together the mundanity of human consciousness that is shown in part 1 and the almost omniscient, quickly passing consciousness of the house. We hear her thoughts on page 135 saying, “Mrs. Ramsay’s things. Poor lady! She would never want them again. She was dead, they said; years ago, in London.” This shows us an estimate of how much time has passed and gives us another insight to a character’s death. It quickly switches back over to the house’s consciousness, where we don’t spend a lot of time on Mrs. Ramsay’s death, but swiftly move through more seasons.

Working with this very quick movement of time by the house’s perspective is the concept of stillness. The stillness is the opposite of human action and the explanation of the house’s spirit. On page 129, Woolf writes, “So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted.” The absence of human interactions and thoughts in the house make the slow movement of time seen in the first part turn into a very rapid movement of time by the house. This is because there is only the stillness of the house, and not any human motives or actions to ponder about and spend longer time thinking over. The Lighthouse is seen by the house’s perspective as the epitome of stillness when Woolf writes, “Only the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment, sent its sudden stare over a bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with equanimity at the thistle and the swallow, the rat and the straw” (138).  This calmness that the lighthouse projects onto the house is fleeting and not very effecting, unlike the lighthouse’s characteristics to the humans in part 1. The human characters in part one spend large amounts of time on the lighthouse and project onto it their thoughts, judgements, histories, and feelings. This expands the amount of time Woolf must spend explaining it. This means that the house only projects its stillness onto the lighthouse, so that it what the lighthouse gives back to it.

This technique of slowing down time when it pertains to human life and speeding it up when it pertains to nature and an empty house is a way to express the processing of the war. Woolf separate the events of the war, which happen very quickly, and how the characters process the war, which takes a considerable longer amount of time. Nature and the house are still, seeing the time of the war only as the passing seasons, while humans are unable to see the passing of time or the effects of the war without their day-to-day, moment-to-moment understanding of it.

To the Lighthouse

Time is a concept that is hard to define.  It’s not exactly a tangible object but in one way or another we can see time.  We see it as people and things grow from young to old and day turns into night.  Time is important; it can bring the means to an end or a beginning.  Woolf demonstrates time well in her novel “To The Lighthouse”.  In the beginning, she illustrates time as being slow, standing still.  Time is frozen; it’s the calm before a storm.  Everyone has experienced this sort of calmness where everything seems to be suspended.  One feels it before a natural disaster hits i.e. a tornado or tsunami.  It is also felt by soldiers just before battle or whole nations before war erupts.  It was felt during WWI.  Time was frozen while the war occurred seeming as though it would never move on and the world would remain in a mass of chaos.  But then the war ended and time sped up catching people off guard.  Woolf’s novel is a good depiction of how the war seemed to its participants.  Before Woolf’s section ‘Time Passes’, she sets her novel to consist of an entire day.  She freezes time in order to reflect on every little aspect life has to offer.  She takes in every point of view that she can and shows the world in that blink of an eye before the storm hits.  It’s very sublime in the way she freezes time for her readers.  Even though time is constantly moving, it is the most stable thing in this world.  It never goes away like all other things in this world; time is universal.  Woolf reflects this stability in the lighthouse.  The lighthouse offers a sense of stability and comfort.  It also reflects time.  A lighthouse is always standing.  It is what sailors seek in times of refuge.  In the beginning of her novel the lighthouse seems to be off but once Woolf begins the section on ‘Time Passes’ the lighthouse has been turned on.  The revolving light of the lighthouse is a reflection on how quickly time moves.  The light turning illustrates days turning to weeks and weeks to months then to years.  In ‘Time Passes’ Woolf speeds up time.  Time is no longer standing still; it is revolving just as the lighthouse light is.  She also gives the impression of time being serene and quiet just sitting back and watching from above.  In my opinion, it’s almost as if Woolf is giving time a god like feeling in the second part.  But this is, of course, just my interpretation of Woolf’s meaning behind time.

To the Lighthouse

Time is a recurring theme throughout Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In Part I (The Window), Woolf stretches time, devoting the first 124 pages to a single day. This reflects the desire of some of the characters for time, that day, to stand still.  Mrs. Ramsay in particular wishes for them to always be together as they are in the dinner scene and for her youngest children, Andrew and Cam, to never grow old and suffer as she has.

In contrast, in Part II (Time Passes) ten years are compressed into approximately 20 pages. The passage of time is reflected by the deterioration of the house on the beach. While only a few words are devoted to the lives of its former inhabitants, the house’s increasingly poor state reflects their own experience over this period. The series of tragedies in the background of WWI are sudden and confusing. Their presentation in a short, objective, bracketed form disrupts the narrative and generates this effect. These years and events are then condensed into a few pages as they are slowly processed over many years. This reflects the way in which the world attempted to process the events and implications of WWI. In its aftermath a strong sense of confusion, shock, and disillusionment was felt. Nature seemed disrupted, as it is around the abandoned house: “…(for night and day, month and year, ran shapelessly together) in idiot games, until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by itself” (134-5). This processing was extremely gradual. Likewise, Woolf’s compression of ten years into 20 pages suggests that little changed over the course of these ten years as the characters, most likely, grappled with these sudden tragedies and, to some extent, the disruption of nature itself (the loss of the constant, binding force of Mrs. Ramsay in many ways represents this disruption of nature in their lives). Time moved on, but many people did not and so the narrative focuses on the state of nature and the beach house as opposed to the characters.

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

In Time Passes, we can say that Woolf uses time in a different way that in Part I, first by saying that Part II is much shorter than the first one.

Here, she describes time with the seasons which helps her telling the story, it’s different from Part I since the story was described with different points of view and not on a long-time period such as this one. Nature is also very used and helps us to understand what will happen after, she describes a lot the landscapes, and talks about flowers, the wind, the sea… For example chapter 6 (p.109) “the sunset on the sea, the pallor of dawn, the moon rising, fishing-boats against the moon, and children pelting each other with handfuls of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity, this serenity.” It seems like this peacefulness offsets the several deaths happening in this Part. Compared to Part I, Time Passes seems like a metaphor of the war, it illustrates it. In the first chapter, the conditions set warn us that something bad will happen (death). There is no light, “gold letters describing death in battle”, a particular vocabulary “ghostlily”, “ravaged”… and at the beginning of the paragraph in which we know that Mrs. Ramsay dies (chapter 3), “The nights now are full of wind and destruction”. Then, death continues until the last chapter, in which peace surfaces “THEN indeed peace had come.” This would mean that even if war happened and that you lost siblings, there is still hope.

As a conclusion, we can say that time is used with a description of Nature, especially the seasons and a kind of parallel with war through all this second part, conveying the message that war can be long, and that everybody can suffer from it, but you can also see the end of the war as a new beginning.

“Into the Lighthouse”by Virginia Woolf .

In part II,“Time Passes”, Virginia Woolf focuses on nature and how it reflects on the desolate atmosphere in the house  and how there is short time that is spent with the seasons and the way that nature is described in the house. An instance of this is when Woolf describes the night as “full of wind and destruction” to foreshadow the events to come of having the death of Mrs. Ramsay happen in the middle of the night (128). Also, the fact that this happens at night is without the presence of the Lighthouse that used to mean the beacon of hope for the characters and the atmosphere in the last part of the novel. Her style of writing is different in this part because she uses parenthesis after describing a tragic event in the characters from relating the real nature toward the lives of the characters. An instance of this is when “a drop into silence, this indifference, this integrity, and thud of someone falling” to foreshadow the event that Andrew died during the war (133). This shows the transition of using vague pronouns to a direct correlation of an member of the Ramsay family. Woolf uses this to also show how time spent in the war happens at a short period and how the reality of its repercussions of it as having death be upon many families as well. The house maids shed a new light for the house to brighten up with “dusting and sweeping” to show how there is still hope toward the rest of the family in coping with their loss of their family members and returning home to where they would spend their summers again (133). She uses time to show how the older generation is helping the younger generation in their pursuit of having no hope for themselves.

Part two of the novel is shorter in comparison to part one since there is more actions involved in the character’s life span and in nature like the seasons changing and there could be new beginning despite the atrocities that happened in the Ramsay family.  An instance of this is when Mr. Carmichael “brought out a volume of poems” to show how there is this transition of how society is trying to pass the time during the war (134). This also shows how the time spent trying to read poems is different than taking up duties that they enjoy when there was no war. Overall, time is reflected by ways of nature and how short it is conveys the life of the characters and the change in seasons as well. This also shows a sense of new beginning with Lily and Mr. Carmichael the only survivors to go back to the house.

“The Waste Land”

The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot expresses the anxieties dealing with the aftermath of WWI through multiple voices, literary quotation, and fragmentation.

The anxieties present in The Waste Land are present through the multiple voices echoing throughout the poem. The narrator addresses “we” then shifts to “I” and then “you.” Figuring out who the poem is addressing most of the time is confusing and blurs the line between which aspects of the anxieties of the war pertain to only the “I” part of the narrator. The echo of the “us” I hear addressed in the poem, is interesting because it shows the emotions and actions of everyone as a whole.

The chain of thought throughout the poem describes the chaos and mixed emotions about the war. The poem beings with the narrator stating “April is the cruelest month, / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire.” From the phrase, the reader gets the impression that this is the voice of a world war veteran. The veteran warns the reader that he mixes his memory and desire often, as it is seen carried out throughout the poem. He discusses his days at war, then his memory skips around and takes him back to his childhood. His memory skips around and jumbles up his thoughts. What I like most about the idea of the narrator mixing reality with memory is that it expresses how confusing human beings actually are. As humans, we might be walking around town, yet thinking about distant memories, then tuning out the memory to absorb the present.

The Waste Land’s Literary Devices

What I found the most fascinating about The Waste Land was Eliot’s use of literary devices. Eliot’s poem presents a story of what it’s like to live in the 20th century, which is an oversimplification of this poem at best. Much like the inconsistency and uneasiness of the 20th century, the Waste Land lacks any true structure. The poem will have flashes of structure and at most blank verse such as in the beginning of section two, A Game of Chess. In the end though, this all falls apart. Another element that Eliot uses is enjambment. In parallel with the time period, Eliot writes this poem with a lack of closure, conclusion, and confusion. The lines bounce too and fro and never truly connect. An example of this is when Eliot wrote, “Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither / Living nor dead, and I knew nothing” (39-40). This style is Eliot emotionally influencing the reader to feel what the 20th century felt like; confusing, lacking closure, and despairing. On top of this, Eliot’s multiple voices provide a scene that leaves the reader perplexed, like in the middle of a crowd of unfamiliar faces. This isolation appeared to be a personal journey for Eliot and one that also encompassed the feelings of many people of the time.

Anxieties in “The Waste Land”

T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” presents several anxieties regarding the aftermath of WWI through the dark and descriptive content of the piece, as well as the hurried and varying structure of the poem itself. The format of “The Waste Land” seems to mimic the ticks and clutter of a shell-shocked WWI veteran, with its sentences which pause spontaneously and carry over, mid-thought, to the following lines of the poem. With fragmentary and repetitive style, Eliot replicates the quick-fleeting thoughts of such a veteran writing, “And I was frightened. He said Marie, Marie, hold on tight. And down we went” (15-16). It appears as though the narrator has suffered a great deal of trauma as he repeats to himself his own ideas in order for them to solidify, stopping every so often to recollect his jumbled thoughts. He hyper-focuses on previous, mundane events and objects, such as “hyacinths” (34) or “The Hanged Man” tarot card (55), hinting to readers that Eliot’s voice is either missing or avoiding the more relevant memories of his past. Readers, representing the public of post-war time, grow to fear mental instability and trauma.

In addition to the structure of the poem, Eliot utilizes a handful of allusions to express the public’s post war anxieties. Through the incorporation of such distressed voices as Shakespeare’s Ophelia, “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies” (172) and John Webster’s doctor, “What is that noise now?” (119), the tone of the poem grows more and more apprehensive. All references reiterate the theme of insanity, each bearing anxieties in the form of uneasy speakers in scenarios of anguish. In addition, they hint at a dark demise for the poem’s narrator, who struggles similarly. Ophelia and Cleopatra both take their own lives, and Tristian dies tragically as he watches for his love. It’s only predictable that the same hurried voice which incorporated the former characters’ verses will suffer a dismal fate as well. Eliot hides this final fear regarding unsatisfactory death well within his allusions, leaving readers to discover such an anxiety gradually and subconsciously.

Eliot’s “The Waste Land”

In T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, many aspects of the aftermath of WWI are present throughout. One of the first notable places is a questioning of identity in Line 12: “Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.” Because Britains felt that the war was waged unnecessarily (or for an unnecessarily long time), there’s a sense of displacement–they’d lost hope and pride in their country, so questioning identity becomes prominent. I also wonder if in this way, showing so many types of people/languages/age groups exemplifies just how widespread the first world war expanded. If that is the case, the poem is unifying the groups of people by their reactions to the war–despite their differing circumstances, many of the reactions are the same. This is displayed in different areas of Part I and II. The theme questioning states of living and of death (and of some sort of in between) present themselves. Lines 39-40 portray a girl and boy, and the girl describes herself as “neither / Living nor dead, and I knew nothing”, while line 126 shows a man asking “‘Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'” Eliot may be getting at the state in which soldiers from war returned. They were often described as “shell-shocked”, and these descriptions of living while dead reinforce that.

Another anxiety in The Waste Land–and probably the most obvious, is the fear and remembrance of death. So many British men lost their lives in WWI, which is exhibited in lines 62-63, where “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many.” The deaths were not only numerous, but many British citizens felt that the deaths were unwarranted. They felt that the deaths were unjustifiable. The overwhelming confusion about where to go from that point stems from this loss. Confusion also stems from other fears as well. Eliot incorporates fear of the unknown, where he shows something “different” from one’s “shadow at evening striding behind” them, or one’s “shadow at evening rising to meet” them, he plans to show “fear in a handful of dust” (lines 27-29). The media initially tried to play the war off as some glorious service, and as deaths grew and as publications came out with gruesome information, people didn’t know what to believe of the war.

Another fear would be of the future, but more importantly, of the now. Line 59 projects from a clairvoyante, Madame Sosostris, that “One must be so careful these days.” So The Waste Land also introduces the fear that no one is safe any longer. The overwhelming rule of the British Empire had already been declining, but the first world war shut it so completely. The sense of power and importance that Britain once had was gone, and now people weren’t sure what protocol was for living, and for being. Eliot incorporates the stresses people had of future generations as well. Specifically, when Lil describes that she looks unappealing because of “them pills” she took, it is slantly referring to her aborting a child (line 159). Eliot the poet responded to Lil by asking “What you get married for if you don’t want children?” (line 164). She may have gotten the abortion because she felt the world was unsafe to bring a child into, she may have been unfaithful during the war, or she may just be done risking her life for childbirth (as she’d had five kids and almost died with the last one) but as it isn’t explicitly stated, it’s hard to know.

The last thing I want to comment on is the return of the nightingale (in relation to John Keats). It’s interesting to see the nightingale return in lines 100-102, harmed but still singing with an “inviolable voice”, like how after the war people had to keep living. In Keats’s poem, the Nightingale sung, ignorant of human suffering, and here, the nightingale is singing despite her suffering. Yet there is a sense of deliberate ignorance of what was happening, a numbness to the aftermath of the war as an attempt to preserve oneself: “‘What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?” / Nothing again nothing” (lines 119-120).

The Waste Land

Overall, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” has a dark tone and confusing structure that mirror the aftermath of the Great War. Throughout the poem, different voices emerge unannounced, making the reader feel as confused as many people felt after the war. For instance, in Part II after line 110, Eliot begins using someone else’s voice as shown by the quotation marks. The lines ” ‘My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me./Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.’ ” (2301) sound jittery and psychotic; this could relate to the vast number of veterans with shell shock. Shellshocked men developed nervous ticks and exhibited strange, even paranoid behavior, so the fragmented sentences featured in Part II of “The Waste Land” show a concern for this new development of traumatized ex-soldiers. Another instance where a (new) voice in quotations reflects concerns of the time is located after line 130. The other voice worries ” ‘What shall I do now? What shall I do?…What shall we do tomorrow? / What ever shall we do?’ ” (2302). These lines address the same subject as Sigfried Sassoon’s “Everyone Sang”; although the soldiers rejoiced that the war was over, they lacked a sense of direction and purpose as soon as it ended. The voice in the aforementioned lines is frantically questioning what it should do, just as the veterans of the time were unsure of what to do after the completion of war. In fact, after the devastating results of an almost pointless war, many civilians also began to wonder what the point of their lives were. These two voices capture two very real anxieties from the aftermath of WWI.

In addition, Eliot uses many different allusions throughout “The Waste Land” to increase the insanity and depressing tone of the poem. Part I begins with a reference to Sybil who, after wishing for eternal life, claims she wants to die. This sets the dark mood for the rest of the poem and relates to the aforementioned questioning the purpose of life that became popular during this time. The selection of this particular scene could also indicate that mankind made a fatal mistake by starting the war and now has to live with the consequences of that mistake, just as Sybil is cursed to live with her mistake of not asking for eternal youth forever. Eliot also references a very different source, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, to end Part II of “The Waste Land”. In the play, the character Ophelia says “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” (2303) and this is seen as a sign of insanity by the King. By ending the second part of the poem this way, Eliot is directly alluding to insanity to help characterize the lost, confused, and insane feelings many people had after the Great War. I believe Eliot’s many references to earlier works could be a search for meaning by exploring the thoughts of past writers and thinkers, but no matter how much he tries to use the past to explain the present, life in the aftermath of the first world war stays as dark and confusing as ever.

T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

As was the general atmosphere after World War 1, this poem by Eliot, The Waste Land, is really confusing. We, as readers, can feel, by reading this poem for the first time, that we are wandering in a world that we don’t understand anymore. In the beginning of the poem, we can find some faithful points of reference, but they always are or distorted, or reversed. For example, we can read on line 5 “Winter kept us warm”. This seems not natural : winter is about cold, not warm. The “normal” values are reversed and the characters of the poem are as lost as the reader is : “I knew nothing” (L40), “What shall I do now?” (L131), “What shall we ever do?” (L134). In these extracts, the characters confess their confusion and seem desperate and lost. The repetition of these different questions higlights the fact that they don’t know what to do with their lives, because they are living in a world that is strange to them. Their confusion is even so strange that we do not know, as readers, whether we have to deal with one character or of many of them, because of the multiple voices and of these different languages used in one poem. This confusion and this lack of comprehension can thus make the reader feel anxious about this twisted world – especially when an emphasis is made on death.

Indeed, the theme of death is the main one in this poem. World War 1 was a real slaughter, and thousands of people died in terrible conditions. This gave birth to a general feeling that everything was dead – people, nature, joy… – and that it will never be alive again. This anxious feeling is omnipresent in this poem. From the very begining of the poem, Eliot express this feeling by using as a heading a quote from Petronious’ Satyricon, in which a Sybil tells her wish to die. This pessimistic point opens the poem and lead many other pessimistic literary references, which deals with this anxiety. The references to Tristan and Isolde, for example, connotes death, since both of the characters die in the end, and the specifical passage Eliot quotes here in German is extracted from the end of the story, when Tristan is about to die. The reference to  Dante’s Inferno also connotes death : “So many, / I had not thought that deah had undone so many” (L63). Here, Eliot makes a clear reference to the high number of people who died during the war, highlighted by the repetition in the end of verse of the syntagma “so many”. The Part II’s final reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet also connotes death, first because it references the character of Ophelie, who dies at the end of the play ; but also by the verses themselves : “Ta ta. Goodnight. Goodnight. / Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night” (L171/172). The repetition of the word “good night” here implies the death, this sort of eternal sleep. Ophelie says goodbye to the world, and it seems that also does Eliot here. So the emphasis on death, especially thanks to the different literary quotation, express this general anxiety that is one of the main characteristic of the World War 1’s aftermath.

In comparison to this, another anxiety is here expressed by Eliot : the one of witnessing the nature’s cycle working again. No one thought that anything would ever come to life again, but nature does not stop, and this is a shock for the characters : “Summer surprised us” (L8). Thus, it seems that all that is about life became a terrible thing, as if it was disrespectful after all that happened. “April, the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land” (L1/2). In this sentence, April embodies the season of fertility, spring, a season that is usually appreciated, and seen as a regeneration. But here, it is qualified by the superlative “cruellest” : fertility is no longer seen as something positive, especially because it happened on a “dead land”. And so humans, who stood between this era of death and the one of life, are even more confused : “I was neither / living nor dead” (L39/40). The character is confused and this connotes anxiety : I am dead or alive? What future do I have in this weird world? Is there any future? Nature’s cycle shows that yes, life does not end, but the past showed that no, because the apocalypse had happened. So, The Waste Land seems to translate the century’s general atmosphere of confusion and of anxiety that the World War 1 gave birth to.

The Waste Land and WWI

The Waste Land is a very complex poem that uses multiple voices and quotations to connect with the reader and share a point about World War I. The entire poem begins with a Latin reference to an ancient Roman figure, Sybil, wishing she could die, which sets the dark tone for describing the aftermath of World War I. The poem then follows with rotating narration that cycles from a woman describing April with German quotations to the description of a hyacinth girl to a tarot card reading, and finally to a man walking through London who is able to see a dead man he knew from the war. The purpose of so many voices could be to show the vast impact of the War; it seems to me that what appear to be unconnected stories come together in the last bit of Part 1 with the French quote “hypocrite lecteur!- mom semblable,- mon frère!” This statement stood out to me most because I saw it as a way of bringing attention to how everyone was affected by the war. Particularly how it is not just the soldiers who have lost and carry the weight of many dead ones on their shoulders.

Another tactic Eliot uses is quotation for indicating speaking of characters in the poem. This stood out to because it is not something I typically see in poems. Particularly, the section in Part 2 where the woman wonders “Where the dead men lost their bones. What is that noise?” She seems to be going slightly insane and with the reference to dead men alludes to the fact that the war and the significant number of dead might be having an effect on her mental stability. This point is only further proven when she later wonders, “What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do?” The sentiment this woman expresses likely mirrors how must of Europe was feeling in the wake of this catastrophe as they questioned what now becomes of their lives.

The Waste Land

The use of multiple languages and references to other literature makes it difficult for the reader to comprehend The Waste Land. This directly ties into the state of the world following World War I because it was incomprehensible and confusing. Eliot utilizes English, French, and German languages, and the countries of origin for these specific languages all had major parts in World War I and were heavily impacted by the war. The seemingly jumbled mixture of these languages gives the poem a more fragmented and choppy style. For example, at the end of the first section, the narrator abruptly breaks out into French when he exclaims “You! hypocrite lecteur! -mon semblable,-mon free!” (76). It is possible that Eliot’s use of various languages served the purpose of illuminating the clash that occurs when all of these countries are united, as shown in the recent war.

Through including multiple narrators, Eliot confuses the reader and increases the complexity of The Waste Land. There were so many people affected by the war in different ways, and by including a variety of narrators Eliot is able to emphasize this vast impact. The various narrators are also tied together by some common themes. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker mentions how “April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land” (1-2). The last speaker in the first section asks his friend “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout?” (71-72) which immediately made me think back to the speaker at the beginning. The idea of planting a corpse in the ground relates to the idea of a “dead land” and the sprouting might therefore be a reference to the “lilacs” previously mentioned. Eliot seems to be illustrating the cycle of life, and how the death of one generation brings about the birth of a new one. This cycle of life was especially prevalent in the many minds following the war, because so many deaths had occurred, especially the deaths of young men. This broke the normal cycle of life and death and made it much more complex, so Eliot might have felt the need to use a more complex metaphor to describe it. During the war, the waste land of battlefields would be strewn with dead bodies, and in the years after the war that land probably healed from all of those deaths and flowers began to cover the death and bring new life. This is one example of a link between the different narrators despite their seemingly different personalities.