Waste Land Essay: Eliot's Use Of Different Speakers

709 words - 3 pages

Eliot's Use of Different Speakers in The Waste Land

  Different speakers in "The Waste Land" mirror the disjointedness of modern experience by presenting different viewpoints that the reader is forced to put together for himself. This is similar to the disassociation in modern life in that life has ceased to be a unified whole: various aspects of 20th-century life -- various academic disciplines, theory and practice, Church and State, and Eliot's "disassociation of sensibilities," or separation of heart and mind -- have become separated from each other, and a person who lives in this time period is forced to shore these fragments against his or her ruins, to borrow Eliot's phrase, to see a picture of an integrated whole.


Different speakers not only present different viewpoints, but also mirror different aspects of the modern cultural experience. This not only presents a group of varying viewpoints, but also a sort of anthropological description of post-World War II Europe. For instance, Eliot gives a picture of the rootlessness experienced by many Europeans in line 13: "Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch."


One of the most important aspects pictured through the use of multiple speakers in "The Waste Land" is the emptiness of sexual experience in the modern world. This is pictured, for instance, by Tiresias' description of the seduction of a typist in lines 222-256; by the conversation with Lil in a tavern in lines 139-172 (in which Lil describes accelerating her cycle of life by having an abortion, which may be seen as rejecting part of that cycle); and by the stories of the "Thames-daughters" (as Eliot calls them) in lines 292-305, in which the sexual experience is described as completely without importance. A related theme created through the use of different speakers is the difficulty of meaningful love in a society that can be symbolically represented by a waste land. For instance, the Hyacinth Girl describes her reaction to what seems to be a vision of a lover by saying that she felt "neither/ living nor dead," and Lil's friend...

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