Analysis of The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot

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If René Descartes’ “Cogito Ergo Sum” embodies the essence of what it means to be a unified and rational Cartesian subject, then T.S. Eliot’s “heap of broken images” eagerly embraces its fragmented and alienated (post)modern counterpart. The message this phrase bears, resonates throughout the entire poem: from its title, “The Waste Land”, to its final mantra “Shantih shantih shantih”. All words, phrases and sentences (or just simply images) which make up this poem seem to, in Levi-Strauss’ words, “be a valeur symbolique zero [and the signifier] can take on any value required ”, meaning that the images Eliot uses do not have one fixed signification and consequently conjure up thought-provoking ideas that need to be studied (qtd. in…show more content…
This epigraph may serve as a way to connect with a certain group of scholars, as not many people speak the language it is written in, however, when it is read in its original context it may mean that Eliot does not foresee a very bright future, which would be in tune with the rest of the poem, furthermore this reference strongly hints at the use of tarot cards and the notion of randomness in the rest of the poem. The fact that this epigraph is in a foreign language greatly contributes to the theme of the poem and is therefore discussed in the next section of this paper. Followed by the epigraph is a quotation from the Anglican burial service, which serves as the subtitle of the first part of the poem: “1. The Burial of the Dead”. This leads us to additional intertextuality, ELIOT April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.

This time Eliot does not quote another piece of text, however, he does consciously foregrounds that he uses the opening to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (Bennett and Royle 5). This profusion of intertextuality, even before “The Waste Land” is well and truly on
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