Prove that “The Waste Land” is a representation of modern sordidness.
Show that “The Waste Land” reveals the complexities and unhappiness of modern life.
Answer: “The Waste Land”, the most suggestive and discussed poem by Eliot, illustrates the complexity and machine-like activity of modern man comparing with the glorious past of spiritual and moral highness. The theme of the poem is the disillusionment of the post-war generation and sterility of the modern man. To portray the image of modern sordidness, Eliot expresses the perversion of sex, loss of faith and moral values, lack of human relationships and commercialization of life of the modern human beings in his poem with artistic beauty.
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. It has become a source of moral degradation. Eliot, in this case, mentions the story of Lil and the experiences of three daughters of Thames.
Lil, an aged wife, fails to fascinate or entertain her retired army husband. The husband wants his wife as a beautiful, fashionable woman which is not possible for her to be. Thus the bondage between the two breaks down and the husband goes for another 26 suitable woman for his mental and physical satisfaction.
In another imagery of moral degradation, Eliot draws the pictureof three Thames daughters who live on being the objects of sexual enjoyment in exchange of money. The example of mechanical sexrelation has been drawn between typist girl and her boyfriend in the poem. Eliot’s expression of fireless sex relation is very touchy. It seems to us that we watching film in TV. Eliot says;
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Exploring hands encounter no defence
Bestows one final patronizing kiss
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unfit [L-231-248]
So, that is the way the young ugly boyfriend of the typist girl leaves her place having personal sexual enjoyment. And, then the typist girl’s reaction;
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover; [ L-249-50]
She thinks; “Well now that’s done; and I’ am glad it’over”. [L-252]
Another scene of sex-perversion that Eliot pictures in “The Waste Land” is of a ‘Homo-sexual relation exemplified by MirEugenides. Eliot Observes that the whole Europe is destroying by the fire of sex. He sums up the story of European lust by the words of St. Augustine;
To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning[L-307-8]
In the past, the source of inspiration for life and achievement was faith. But values have been changed nowadays. None can believe anybody. Faithfulness has turned to. dust. The modern people always long for the all-powerful money; money is’ the God to the modern man. Spiritually, peoples all over the worlds have become ban-en. Christians go to the churches as a routine-work.
After the World War 1, people have become self-centered and egoistic. Each and everybody think only of his own interest. The bond of human relationship has fallen apart. The poet feels that the people have turned to the embodiment of selfishness Everyone is imprisoned in his own life Eliot says;
We think of the Key, each in his prison
Thinking of the Key, each confirms prison [L-413-14]
In “The Waste Land”, Eliot shows that the conception of family and of human relationships is being shattered down day by day. People of modern age are out-going; they do not feel comfort in their houses. They like to evaluate everything in terms of money. Mr. Eugenide is an example of modern businessmen. He deals with every object in the hotels. He is also fond of homo-sex; he fulfills his desire with hotel boys. Similarly the company directors and executives enjoy their leisure time with the beautiful girls of riversides. In Eliot’s words:
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors
Departed, have left no address [L-180-81]
Psychologically, the modern people are not satisfied with their getting. What they get and what they wished for are two different stories. They seem frustrated Eliot, for example, mentions the fashionable society woman called the lady of situation who is bored with her own life. Her lover, too, suffers from mental exhaustion. Eliot remarks:
I think we are in rat’s alley
Where the dead men lost their bones. IL-115-16]
To say it truly, the modern people are looking for a black cat in a darkroom. Eliot observes that the past glory of man has flown away and everyone who thinks of peaceful co-existence of peoples withmoral highness has been suffering from frustration. The poet does not see any hope in the world. He says;
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience
Here is no water but only rock [L-328-31]
Many famous scholars have criticized the poem from different angles. F. R. Levis calls the poem as the “vision of desolation and spiritual draught”. I. A. Richards comments that the poem is “the plight of whole generation”. Cleanthes Brooks says the poem is “a sigh for the vanished glory of the past and the living death of modern waste Landers”. Thus, we see that Eliot’s expression of truth has been received by the scholars.
In the poem “The Waste Land”, Eliot has expressed the modem sordidness and suggested to follow the way the ancient people used to. At the ending point, he, revealing Hieronimo’s madness again draws our attention to broken images; that is, the indecisiveness and restlessness of the modern people. At last, Eliot suggests the modern people to follow the maxim of a Hindu myth Upanishad that says man “control yourself, give alms, and be compassionate”, by which `shantih’ may prevail in the world.