S. Elliot’s The Wasteland is dysfunctional, oppressive, and cold. Though the poem seems to be based on the society of England, as there are several clear geographical references like “the London bridge” (427),…
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The post World War 1 Western society according to Elliot is not an integrated unit of individuals. In fact, it is just “a heap of broken images” (22), which suggests that the individuals are detached from one another and fail to form a functional society. It is like “the dead tree” (23) that cannot provide shelter to anyone. It reflects an awry state of society whose foundations have crumbled and its individuals are left alone.
This line evokes an innate desire of individuals to break away from the oppressive traditions of society and seek refuge in the mountains, where one can exercise the freedom of self. The effects of the First World War on society and individuals were irreparable and it has been portrayed by the gloomy imagery in this poem. “Unreal City, / Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,” (60-61)
A quite depressing state of society that survives under “the brown fog” has been portrayed in these lines. It is quite possible that Elliot is metaphorically representing the society as the brown fog, which gives a sense of oppression and stagnation because this blanket of “brown fog” doesn’t let in light or fresh air. It is suffocating for the individuals to live in such society that doesn’t give them the freedom to grow.
In the second poem, “rats’ alley” (115) could be a reference to modern society that has turned into a narrow place with no light or fresh air. It gives a sense of a place where the characters, values and lives of human beings are decaying. One also gets an impression that the society Elliot is talking about is so cold that it dampens the spirit and will of the individuals to move on in their lives. “But at my back in a cold blast I hear/ The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.” (185-186)
However, the individuals are still hoping and waiting for a response from the society they are living in
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Katherine’s stepfather was to be the one who married her to James Philips, with whom he was related. There is some speculation as to the age difference between the husband and wife but some hold that the age difference was well over thirty years, at least.
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