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Why is the subject of water so prevalant in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland - Essay Example

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Written at a time when the world had just emerged from a bloody war, and was reeling from its revelations of human cruelty and indifference, The Wasteland reflects the angst and self examination of that era. It is perhaps, modern poetry's most complex work and exceedingly probing, looking deep into humanity's soul and disillusioned by what it sees there.
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Why is the subject of water so prevalant in T.S. Eliots The Wasteland
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Download file to see previous pages Is Eliot speaking of the human soul as a wasteland In this paper I will try to address this question, and thereby also explain why the concept of water is so prevalent in the poem; if one interpretation of the poem is that he is trying to show humanity and its spiritual beliefs have become a wasteland, that it has lost its spirituality, its connection to the divine, then we can look at water as a metaphor for that spirituality and thus the lack of water throughout the poem assumes a greater significance.
In terms of religion and spirituality, water has been given an extremely important status, and has been used to denote many things. Broadly speaking, water has been used to represent four major concepts - life, purity, power and death or punishment (Broome, The Bible). Eliot appears to have interwoven all these meanings into his use of water, which seems to imply that he is speaking of humankind's loss of its humanity and its connection to God. To examine the question of how and why water is used so liberally in the poem, I will take each concept and examine it with respect to the poem.
Scientifically too, water has been predicted to be the bearer of life; theories on the evolution of life generally agree that life arose from the thick soupy oceans in which the world was covered. Water itself is necessary for the propagation of life. Eliot would also have been aware of these theories as the period in which he lived was one ripe for science. His deep study of religion (Bush) is reflected in the references to the Bible and Hindu texts scattered throughout the poem. Within the very first part of the poem itself, the reference to water as a life-giver becomes evident: ".stirring dull roots with spring rain" and again from the lines of verse beginning at line 19 the landscape is described as dry, and therefore, dead and forbidding :
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
The lack of water is striking. There appears to be no water, no relief from the burning heat. Perhaps this is a reference to the lack of spiritual strength, the fact that there is no spiritual life as opposed to physical life. If we look at the Wasteland as a metaphor for the soul, then this interpretation is valid. This appears to be borne out later too, as Madame Sostrosis predicts the future from a pack of Tarot cards - "Fear death by water." She says. This could be a punishment for lack of belief, as water has often been used to bring punishment and the wrath of God. For example, the Great Flood in which Noah escaped in his ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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