Modernism in the words of a poet…

During a time of confusion, mixed emotions, fighting and devastation, everything can be brought back to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste landA poem forever ingrained in history as battling contemporary society during a time of complete devastation.

The idea of a wasteland, a dry, empty place, is being used to symbolize how Europe was destroyed by the war. How cultural books were depleted and spirituality was surpassed.

Eliot was a man who brought poetry into the modern world by incorporating Indian Philosophy and shifting between time, memory, scene and speaker.

In this poem, there are five different parts, all breaking down societal devastation that occurred because of World War I. He breaks down different social standards, classes, and genders in order to create a masterpiece that includes everyone. He brings forth the themes of war, trauma, disillusionment and death, all caused by the war.

Although this poem was written years ago, it still holds true to what is happening in todays society. With the advancement of school shootings, being on the brink of war, and the never ending financial distributions, everyone is suffering from the lack of moral integrity. The United States is suffering from yet another catastrophe, whether it be war, financial debt, or poverty, there is something lacking within society.

David Peck wrote a summary of the Wasteland, highlighting the societal aspects that define who a person is.

“The motif of moral degeneration, however, is prevalent throughout the poem, the premise being that contemporary Europe, obsessed with novelty, trends, materialism, and instant gratification, lacks the faith and substance to reaffirm its cultural heritage, to reestablish the sense of order and stability that historical continuity once provided” Peck said.

With the influence of another great writer, Ezra Pound, Eliot was able to accommodate all aspects of societal failures within his poem. Showing true physical and emotional devastation, class ranking, and the tales of the modern society, always searching for peace within its crushed walls.

 

“And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
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