Essay Sample on Modernization in T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land': Analysis & Metaphor

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1738 Words
Date:  2023-01-12


T.S Eliot just like many artists used chaos in the society to express the fear and moral decay of people of the 20th century, he in his poem "Waste Land" showed how post-war modernization killed people's spiritual morals. It is considered the greatest poem which criticizes modernization. This paper is an analysis of modernization effects after the war and also examines Eliot's use of metaphoric language throughout the story. Eliot wrote this poem with the intention of revealing how people behave and live in regard to modern life. Their dreaded state of minds caused by life frustrations after the war left people confused and hopeless. The poem is in a bitter and pessimistic mood while it reveals how anger, violence, hopelessness and frustration made modern people extremists leading to moral decay. He expresses fear of painful moments which brings good memories of the past during tough times in life. The modern or civilized humankind is seen as one that does not know what is wrong or right. His actions when examined reveals a lack of culture, humanity, religious belief and morality. Eliot tries to shed light in the modern darkness which came with civilization. Although civilization, which came after the revolution in Europe was meant to enlighten the humankind, society misunderstood the aspect by addressing it as abandoning the traditions and culture. In the poem,

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Eliot begins his story with "The burial of the dead" as his first section. This section reveals anguish where four speakers find themselves incarcerated and surrounded by corpses (Rokanuzzaman 1). The title of this section is already showing frustrations and bad conditions of life after the world war. He indulges his conversation the season saying that April was not a happy month. "April is the cruelest month, breeding" (1). The April winter already reveals the bad conditions the city is in. The quote has a metaphoric meaning of bad weather for painful conditions in Europe. It is supposed to be a long-term winter which makes the narrator miss spring memories. He flashes back to his "hyacinth girl" (36) memory whereby he remembers the sweet relationship with this girl. Hyacinth grows in water, water which is life indicates how lively and lovely his relationship was with the girl. It was respectable and real. Drawing back to reality, he is enclosed by "stony rubbish" (20). This section tells how despair and frustrations of war have caused pain that regenerate the good memories of when the world was peaceful. The society hungers for the harmonious days when every dream was achievable. At the moment, the painful emotions caused by political violence has made life so frustrating that it is almost impossible to achieve dreams.

The story then moves to the second "A game of chess". The narrator talks about two women who represent modern sexuality (Rhee 5). The white woman represents sexuality in the way of self-damaging and ban. The other woman reveals a sexuality side whereby it is seen as an uncontrolled life of sex with fast aging and lack of culture as factors. The first woman is connected with allusion, whereby two queens, Dedo and Cleopatra killed themselves for love. The second woman, a deceiver has her perfect life; bore children with her solder husband who she supports so much. However, her body punishes her. The anguish of these women is as a result of not having a quality relationship. They cannot have healthy relationships because they don't know how. The jeweler woman who is seen sitting while complaining about what to do shows dissatisfaction of modern women despite their wealth. The status of the unstable relationships in this section reveals the nature of modern individual belief on a relationship. This section reveals the fear of materialism which leads to spiritual decay. The "carved dolphin" and "synthetic perfumes" (11) reveal the level of stupidity men have stooped. As the poem continues, the barman constantly reminds Albert and Lil to "Hurry up please it is time". This shows that there is no time to lay low anymore. It is a constant fear that time for political war is running out. Eliot employed that metaphor to show that time had come for a change in Europe and that there was a need for action. At the end of the section, the Eliot borrowed words from Hamlet play that shows the ridiculous nature of life.

In "The fire sermon" section, the narrator finds peace in the river banks. However, he notices that the river carries nothing of summer sort, "the nymphs are departed" (3, 7). Nymphs are industrial refuse which is disposed of to the river. He says that there could no longer be such waste due to modernization. The narrator reveals how the revolution has changed the era. He attests to the absence of history, spirituality and tradition that existed before the revolution. The modernization has brought the narrator a new view of his city as unreal. Aggressive and sad sex memories show the moral decay of society. A young man hoops to the bed of a typist woman and makes love to her aggressively. Another memory of a lonely woman strikes where she lost her virginity to a lustful man in the river. The poor working conditions in the town and other uncomfortable situations the narrator finds himself in this section reveals the consequences of revolution which in this case is modernization. Eliot shows irony in this particular section. He uses asceticism and sexual intercourse as competing dimensions to attain divine unity. Eliot has come to reveal that the problems existing in the current world are as a result of religious beliefs which have nothing to do with a certain period of time or gender. The characters in "Wasteland" clearly do not know what is good and what is evil. The religious peace and optimism did not protect European land from destruction. The anguish of relying on that belief has now left the modern generation hopeless and confused (Southgate 1).

The "death by water" section comes in show how the society is scattered of people's beliefs did not protect them from war harm. The narrator takes time to remember Europe as a youth when it stood tall and young. Right now, it is dead. Its bones scattered everywhere and people step on them while walking. Eliot corrects the religious belief by showing that we are all equal in the eyes of God and if "Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you" (10) was destroyed, then anyone can get destroyed. The quote tells that the city that was peaceful and standing well is now drained by modernization. This short section shows that there is no favoritism in the destruction of society by war (Danis 1).

The last section of "what the thunder said" is a setback of cleansing or providing a solution to the present chaos. As the narrator cries for rains to wash away the sins of the city, he focusses on the mountain and rocks as he waits for help. The narrator says there is "dry sterile thunder without rain" (21). Thunder is a positive sign of rain. Although it has not rained, there is the hope of rain. There is the hope of cleansing of the dirty and dead city remaining with hopeless people who cannot differentiate right and wrong. The narrator says "he who was living is now dead" (7). This quote reveals the spiritual death of Europe. The moral decay has led to its death. Once the cleansing is done, the city might stand to how it was before the chaos. During the conversation between Datta and Dayadhvam, Dayadhyam confirms to have heard the key to the prison shake like it was opening. The prison where the four speakers at the beginning of the poem are locked with the dead bodies. The key is a symbol of freedom. Once the key is used to open the prison doors, the prisoners will be free and at peace. The hope for cleansing feels near that before at this point. According to Troy Southgate, "what the thunder said" or Christ's agony in the Gethsemane garden indicates the frustration the narrator felt towards the evil of humans. He feared that the world will remain uncleansed and unsaved. It is for this reason he cried for the rains, for water which is life to act as the savior for humankind. The need for revival, redemption and rebirth of old legends was very clear at this point. The cry for rains here reveals that humankind has been misguided by his beliefs, which in return has brought cracks to the civilization. The cracks then require reforms which are to bring back the city from the unreal city (Rokanuzzaman 2).


In conclusion, T.S Eliot's poem "The waste land" is metaphoric in nature. The phrase waste land represents a damaged or destroyed the place where hope and focus are no longer found. The analysis of the poem proves the modernization and philosophies of the discussed era. It is a revelation of what war came to do to the real world. In Europe, before the war, it was peaceful and admirable. The civilization of humankind was on point and there was peace. When the war raptured, the belief of humankind in peace and unity died alongside with the civilization. Europeans grew hopeless, confused and in despair. They could no longer tell what is right or wrong. Their moral and spiritual decay grew to society. A city that was once admirable is now no longer attractive. It is unreal. The chaos has disjointed the world and made it barren. This is modern Europe; with no sense of dignity, culture or moral principles to show off. It is empty land, which only cleansing of the chaos can begin to draw it back to the legend it was before the war.

Works Cited

Danis, George. "The World of Eliot's Waste Land." p. 1, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Eliot, T. S. "The Waste Land." 1965, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Rhee, Semy. "The Waste Land as a Metaphor." 2012, pp. 1-28, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Rokanuzzaman, Mohammad. "How Eliot's The Waste Land Reflects the Disorder and Decay of Modern Civilization." 2019, pp. 1-3, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Southgate, Troy. "Inside the Wasteland: T.S. Eliot's Use of Fear." 2019, p. 1, Accessed 13 May 2019.

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Essay Sample on Modernization in T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land': Analysis & Metaphor. (2023, Jan 12). Retrieved from

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