Myth and Violence in The Waste Land Essay

2655 Words11 Pages
As evidenced by his writings, T.S. Eliot has a profound appreciation for the use of myth as a point of departure for maintaining a cultural or historical perspective. In "The Waste Land," his employment of myth is not simply an allusive and metaphorical tactic, but rather an attempt at relating his own ideas and tropes to universals in order to establish some external order for the chaos he is presenting: "The element of myth in his art is not so much a creative method, a resumption of the role of mythic poet, as it is an intellectual strategy, a device for gaining perspective on himself and on his myth-forsaken time" (Ellmann, 621). He draws from the ideas existing in the collective unconsciousness (which compose myth) and the…show more content…
It is this violence, the product of the human unconscious through natural observances, which is so fundamental to the completion of mythic structures and which is altogether missing from Eliot's "The Waste Land." His departure from myth here demonstrates his lack of faith in society to rebuild itself- to purge, purify, and be reborn- according to the means supplied by history and tradition. In Eliot's notes to "The Waste Land," he alludes to several significant catalogues of myth: the Bible, Dante's Inferno, Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Milton's Paradise Lost. However, he primarily points his readers to Weston and Frazer: Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on Grail Legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough ; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies (Eliot,
Open Document