T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"

Essay by elivetCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" has been named the most important poem ever written. Many have also said that it is the most influential piece of literature ever to come out of the Western Cannon. However, at the same time, there are those that claim that it is simply given too much meaning and yet others to claim that it is simply plagiarism because of the numerous references and allusions. There is one thing that no one can deny though, and that is the wonderful and very effective use of emotive imagery.

Most of the imagery in the poem is very dark and gloomy. There is nothing but death and misery in Part I, The Burial of the Dead. The name itself implies death and the gravity of the situation. However, right away the reader is shown the opposite as well. There are, right away, images of vegetation and of growing.

This type of imagery evokes the emotions of hope and the feeling that not everything is lost after all. There is a strange mix of allusions in the third line of the poem: "Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain." (l. 3-5) The allusion in "Lilacs out of the dead land" is to the poem "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman. The original poem is about the death of Abraham Lincoln. Whitman's use of lilacs differs severely from the way that Eliot uses them. In Whitman's poem, images typically associated with life, the act of blooming and the season of spring, are immediately confronted by the narrator's mourning at the arrival of these events. Eliot, on the other hand, tells the reader, with the use of the lilac and other flower imagery,