Assignment- E-C 301 the Modernist Literature
Topic- Various themes of the poem from The Waste Land
Name- Sumra Jitendra V.
SEM - 1
Various themes of the poem from The Waste Land
T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land is an important landmark in the history of English poetry and one of the most talked about poems of the 20th century. It is a long poem of about four hundred forty lines in five parts entitled
1] The Burial of the dead
2] A game of Chess
3] The Fire sermon
4] Death by water and
5] What the thunder said
The details are following:
1] The Burial of the dead:
The opening part of the “The Waste land’’ is entitled the burial of the dead ; it refers  The burial of dead fertility god ; The burial service for the dead perform by the Christian church. In both the cases death is believed to be followed by rebirth. But the inhabitants of the contemporary waste land are spiritually dead and the very thought of the rebirth or spiritual re-generation is painful to poem. April is the cruelest month for the denizens of the modern waste land, for it signifies re-birth, and they prefer ‘winter’ or spiritual death for re-birth .and any spiritual effort is hateful to them. April is the cruelest month and winter is welcome for it keeps them warm and no effect is needed on their part. The contrast with the opening lines of Chaucer’s prologue is obvious. April mixes memory with desire. The father was often murdered by the son jealous of his prerogatives, and the god is simply the father-substitute; or it may be April is cruel. For it reminds them of their spiritual death, makes them desirous of regeneration, but since regeneration requires effort, the desire is painful for them.
The shadow of the rock is immortal and internal and so different from the shadow of man which is his death in youth [Morning] .It is before him ready to meet him. ‘A handful of dust ’. Is ‘man’ who is afraid both of death and who can find freedom from fear only by approaching him for his forgiveness?
To conclude in the first section the general theme of ‘The waste land’ has been stated. It has been stated that life in the contemporary world is a life in death. It is living death.
 A Game of Chess:
The second part of the poem is fittingly entitled ‘A game of Chess’. It is explores the failure of sex relationship in the modern waste land. Sex has become a matter of moves and counter moves between men and women. It has been became a more source of pleasure and has lost its spiritual significances. As a result, family life both in high and low. Society has reached a statement and life has become a round of dull routine. Eliot traces the futility, boredom, neurosis of modern life to the perversion of sex- relationship.
The Second now moves to a tavern and we get a picture of statement at the other end of the social scale resulting from a perversion of sexual values. It is a friend of Lil who tells someone women assembled in a city pub that Lil’s husband. The last line ‘Good night, ladies’ etc. so that is the ‘A game of Chess’.
3. The Fire Sermon:
The title of this section is taken from the famous sermon of Lord Buddha in which the world is shown burning with lust and passion and hatred and a thousand other evils. It also reminds one of the confessions of St. Augustine wherein he represents lust as burning.
The sector is a sermon, but it is a sermon by examples only. The sterile burning of lust is brought out by different sex experience in the contemporary waste land.
The part opens with Tiresias surveying the Thames scene in the autumn. The leaves have fallen down and the wind moves without any rustle. The Thames is deserted. In the summer, it had been the haunt of nameless ladies in search of momentary pleasure and the rich sons of business directions equally in need of pleasure. After having their round of pleasure, they have all left. The river is stream all over with empty bottles, cigarette, cases, papers, handkerchief etc. the re4minders of the orgy of the water is a source of purification and regeneration but the degeneration-modern man does not realize this and so does not hesitate to defile the purity of the river which, “sweets oil and tar.” The pollution of the river symbolizes spiritual degeneration. The river scene puts us in mind of a similar scene in Spenser’s Prothalamim in the Spenser’s scene the nymphs and their lovers prepare for wedding but in the contemporary scene they assemble there merely for an orgy of pleasure. The contrast is jarring, and it is a measure of the 20th century.
There was a time when Queen Elizabeth and her favorite Earl of Leicester used to sail on the river in their beautiful barge. Its front was golden, and it was all colored red and gold. It sailed briskly as the South west wind filled the sails and there was swift current in the water. As they sailed down the river they could hear the sound of bells coming out of the white towers of the………………………..
The poet is reminded of the words of St. Augustine in his confessions. “To Carthage them I came, where a caldron of unholy loves sang all about my ears.” The entire modern waste land is burning in the fire of lust and save their souls. As it is said, they are all are burning in this fire. To whatever section or stratum of society they may belong, they are equally lustful and degeneration. They are all burning.
Death by Water
Phlebas was a Phoenician sailor who was famous in ancient times, for their skill in navigation. Now he has been dead for a fortnight. Now he no longer remembers the cry of gulls which he used to hear during his voyages. Now he has also forgotten all about the rise and fall of the waves of come to an end. His bones were caught by a current of water under the sea. As his body rose and fell with the current, he passed the various stages of a man’s life from youth to old age. At last his body was caught in a whirlpool and was seen no more. Thus ended his earthly existence we should learn a lesson from his tragic death. Whether we are believers or non- believers, we should not seek to control our destiny and drive ourselves the boat of our life. If we do so we shall meet the tragic fate of Phlebas. Who was once as tall and handsome as we are? We should have faith in God, and leave our destiny in his hands.
5) What the Thunder Said:-
The fifth part of the poem begins with an account of the arrest of Christ at the hand of his enemies. They came in search of him with torches in their hands. Their faces were dirty with secret and red with anger. He was arrested in a garden and there was frosty silence after his arrest. He suffered greatest agony in palaces and prisons made of stones. Then the mobs shouted angrily as it was rumored with their shouts. Then at last Christ was crucified but at the very moment of his crucifixion mountains indicating that soon there will be rain.
The second passage refers to the journey of in search of the Holy Grail. They search the kingdom of king fisher and climb the mountain on the top of which. It was believed the Holy Grail was kept in a chapel called the chapel perilous. It was a difficult journey they were all thirsty. There were only rocks all around them. It was a sandy road that went up the mountains in a winding zigzag manner. They were Rocky Mountains without any water. It is song, “Drip, drop, drip” etc. sounds very much like the sound produced by the falling of the drops of water at all.
And the third passage describes the journey of two of the Disciples of Christ who are going to the Biblical waste land of Emmaus one of them asks his companion as to who was the third person walking by his side when he counted, there were only two, he and his companion. But when he looked ahead towards the white road, he always saw a third person walking by the side of his companion. This figure was well-wrapped in a brown cloak, and had a hood over its head, so that he could not say whether it was man or a woman.
The forth passage describes the animals journey of the modern hearths and homes. A murmuring sound of lamentation is heard in the air, as if some women were mourning and crying. There are crowds of people wandering over endless plains. The earth is cracked at places and they stumble and fall. They are ringed only by the horizon. A city is seen over the mountains, which cracks, is broken, but again assumes a particular shape, and then bursts again, in the air at the time of dusk. The towers of churches or other big buildings of that city seem to be falling down. The city may be any of the unreal cities in the modern waste land.
In the T.S.Eliots’ “The Waste Land”, there are five types of themes and the waste land ends with the words “Shantih, shantih, shantih”.