Mythical Method in T. S. Eliot's Poetry

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       Eliot has clarified the concept of Mythical Method in his review of James Joyce's Ulysses. He writes: "In using myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between Contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him.... It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history... Instead of narrative method, we may now use the mythical method."

      By using his historical sense, Eliot has shown that the problems of the present day are not many. Such problems were faced by man in the past. They found out certain solutions which could be tried out today. If we profit by the experience and wisdom of the past, we may be able to survive. The past shows that there have been periods of spiritual decay. A kingdom has been laid waste either by the sins of the ruler or by the havoc caused by the war. The land has been restored to prosperity and health by the sufferings and penance of rulers.

Eliot has used both pagan and Christian myths. From Egypt, he borrowed of the fertility ritual myth.
Mythical Method

      Myths: Ancient and Modern : Eliot has used both pagan and Christian myths. From Egypt, he borrowed of the fertility ritual myth. The effigy of the god of vegetation stocked with grains of corn on his body, was buried under ground. After some days the grains sprouted. It was said that god was re-born. Sometimes the fertility god was drowned in the sea and after-while, when it floated it was said that god was re-born. The Christian myth is about the sinfulness of man and sufferings of Christ in atonement of man's sin and resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is a symbol of man's survival and prosperity.

      Method of Contrast : In this connection Matthiessen says, there is a "basic-resemblance between the vegetation myths of the rebirth of the year, the fertility myths of the rebirth of the potency of man, Christian story of the Resurrection, and the Grail legend of purification." Through the device of contrast, Eliot highlights the squalor and ugliness of the present in relation to the past. The events of the past are brought in close juxtaposition with the events of the present. For example, the love of Queen Elizabeth and Earl of Leicester is not different from the sexual affair between the typist girl and a male clerk. Eliot's London is not different from Baudelaires Paris and Dante's Limbo. The same ills and corruption prevail in the regions. The idea is that there is sameness of the problems inspite of distance in time and space.

      Objective co-relative : Eliot uses myths as objective co-relative. An objective co-relative is a set of objects, solutions and chain of events which shall be a formula for some particular motion of the poet, so that when the external facts are given the emotions are immediately evoked. For example, The Waste Land when viewed though mythical Waste Lands produces a series of emotions which arise in the poet's mind as he looks at the human life in the present and the past. Similarly the ancient customs and the rituals evoke certain emotions and ideas in the poet's mind.

      Technique of Compression : While James Joyce followed the technique of elaboration in presenting his myths, Eliot condensed his myths in the minimum possible words. He has covered vast immensity in a small space. This was possible by omitting connecting links and the touch-and-go method. This, however, required a good deal of intellectual effort. It is remarkable that the epic of modern life has been presented by Eliot in four hundred and thirty lines in The Waste Land.

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