American Modernism: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Waste Land_2_cc_croppedAmerican Modernism literature seeks to be contemporary while harkening to classics in an ever-changing world. T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” asks readers to find redemption in a baron landscape after the lands have been raped of everything. The “profit and loss” of the lands that have been left and forgotten like the “cry of gulls,” Eliot asks readers to consider Phlebas to consider their own inevitable death (Eliot, 1921). Unlike Stetson who’s decaying body sprouted a garden, Phlebas only gave decay, not all ends grant renewal and birth but are of face value. Eliot plays with the idea of the life cycle in an age of modern decay with unknown names and faces.

Eliot’s poem has long since conception been considered a piece of poetry that could be read without regard to the date on the calendar. “The Waste Land” transcends time in a way that is both comforting and alarming. Anyone can turn on the news and feel “The Waste Land” that Eliot describes being an all too uncomfortably close reality while struggling with hope for renewal and rejuvenation. Eliot’s inclusion of reality of life in twentieth-century America in his poem gives readers a violent shake into the realities of life while closing on an offering of shantih. Eliot believed, “What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career” (Eliot, 1921). “The Waste Land,” offers every generation a reality check by asking readers not to forget the past when considering how to behave in the present and future.

Eliot’s inclusion of this content on me as a reader means I can pick up this poem regardless of a stage in my life and find meaning in it. By Eliot utilizing transcendent themes in this poem I can share this poem with my children and they can share it their children and so on. This all also means that no matter what, the human race is never too far from obliterating everything by forgetting the past.


Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. “The Waste Land.” 1922.

Eliot, T.S. Tradition and The Individual Talent. Bartleby. The Sacred Wood. 1921.


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