Quotation, Contrast and Parallelism in The Waste Land

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      Quotations : Eliot's scholarship is seen in his use of quotations from different works. Firstly, we must look into the intrinsic value of the quotation and how it throws light on the situation in the present context. Secondly, quotations are sometimes used to serve a new purpose namely the function of imbalance contrast. The quotation from Wagner's Opera on the love of Tristan ana Isolde fits into the scene of the hyacinth girl and her lover. Both are examples of guilty love and therefore, destined to end in failure. The quotation from Wagner's Opera on the love of Tristan and is Isolde fits into the scenery the hyacinth girl and her lover.

      Both are examples of guilty love and therefore destined to end in failure. The quotation from Baudelaire. "You hypocrite lecture" sums up the situation of the modern man and his universalization in Stetson. Sometimes the words of the quotation are changed to suit the context. The words of the dirge in Webster's The White Devil havae been changed. The wolf of the original has been replaced by the Dog. and 'foe' is changed into 'friend'. This change has been made deliberately. 'Dog' represents watchfulness or spiritual consciousness and he will like to rouse man to a sense of his spiritual tragedy. Such as awakening is disliked by stetson and another men of the modern world. The last of men on the river Thames and the rape of the daughter of the Thames make the poet recall the great lusts of the Carthage. St. Augustine was saved by prayer from fire of the lustful city. (line. 309). The quotation is quite apt:


T. S. Eliot's poetry the wasteland
The Waste Land


"To Carthage then I came

Burning, burning, burning,

O Lord then pluckest me out,

O Lord thou pluckest"


      Similarly, the quotations from the French and the Italian writers at the end of The Waste Land are quite appropriate to the purpose of the poem. The line from Dante, "Pois... affina" means : "Please remember pains", the idea being that regeneration can take place only through suffering. The Latin quotation - "Quando" implies that suffering produces spirtual re-birth. The sonnet - "Le prince" connotes the detachment necessary for man's salvation. These quotations from different sources meaning practically the same thing add to the beauty and the digrnity of the poem. It is good that the poet has furnished in the Notes, the sources of his quotations for the benefit of his readers.


      Contrasts : The poet heightens the dichotomy between the past and the present by contrast. The fertility myths particularly emphasize regeneration through death. But the decay and death of moral value and the aimless routine of the modern urban civilization cannot led to the re-birth of a new and better order. For the waste-landers, April is cruel because it signifies re-birth, whereas for other April is pleasant and joyful. For them, December is warm because they can enjoy life. The value-system of the waste-landers is topsy-turvy. Similarly, there is a contrast in the interpretation of the music of the nightingale who is no other than the raped Philomela. The pathetic song of her innocence and purity which signifies purification through suffering is for the waste landers an invitation to sex. In fact, for them love has degenerated into lust.

      The contrast between the River Thames of Spenser and Thames of Eliot is vivid. Nymphs on the river bank listened to the song of the waters. Taday Thames is polluted by empty whisky bottles, sandwich papers and cigarette-ends. Water which is an agent of purification as mentioned by Shakespeare in The Tempest - "Those are pearls that were his eyes" is now a source of pollution - "The river sweats oil and tar", (line. 266).The physical pollution has led to the moral pollution of the daughter of the Thames-young girls are openly raped. I made no comment. Why should I resent? (line. 299).

      Another remarkable contrast is between the girl of the eighteenth century and the modern typist-girl. The girl who lost her virtue in Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield committed suicide; the modern girl after the sexual act feels no remorse or shame; she merely takes it as a matter of routine and puts a record on the gramophone with automatic hand'. (line. 256). Another contrast is given in the final section. Christ lives through crucification though the wastelanders have killed him through neglect. Their is a kind of death-in-life. "He who was living is now dead. We who were living are dying" (line. 228-229). The skilful use of contrasts throws light on the thoughts and actions of the wastelanders.


      Parallelism : Parallelism has been used by Eliot for showing the similarity of problems in the past and the present. Eliot mentions a number of wastelands which are so much alike; the Biblical waste land, the waste land of King Oedipus, the waste land of King Fisher, and the modern wasteland. The root cause of these waste lands, their barrenness and desolation was loss of moral values and sexual perversion. The way to regeneration and salvation is given by Eliot in the last section in the words of the Thunder.

      Similarly, the vegetation and fertility myths emphasise the pattern of nature: death, re-birth and death. Water has been purifying agent throughout the ages; we have turned it into a source of pollution due to our commercial instinct and sex mania. Given the old set of values water can again be a source of vitality and re-birth.

      The tragedy for guilty love is portrayed in the story of Tristan and Isolde and the hyacinth girl of to-day. The unreal city is the London of today, Sex perversions in mediaeval and modern ages are similar. Look at the stories of Cleopatra and Elizabeth which are embodiment of women in high society and the stories of Lil and the typist-girl in modern society. Today the daughter of the Thames are not ashamed of their sexual orgies. Mrs. Porter waits for Sweeney on the river bank.

      There is a parallel in the commercial activities of men of the past and the present. Phlebas, an ancient businessmen met a watery grave; the modern Mr. Eugenides wants to enjoy life to the finger-tips. St. Carthage on St. Augustine's day was as much full of lust as the London of today. The fire-sermon of Buddha reminds us of the fire of lust and evil in which men constantly keep buring. Previously, destruction of man came through natural calamities-fiure, flood and drought; today similar havoc is wrought by global wars and political revolutions (as in Russia and Eastern Europe). The parallel system and conditions of life make Eliot dig into the past for the maladies of the modern age. 'What the Thunder said' about the salvation of man in the past applies to the conditions of today. The disease is the same; the remedy is the same : "Give, Sympathise, Control." The parallel between the past and the present is continued till the very end of the poem. The solution offered by Eliot is the ancient wisdom: "Da, Da, Da."

       Eliot's vast scholarship is reflected in literary allusions, symbols and myths. Modern life is compared to life in the past. He draws largely on two books - From Ritual to Romance and The Golden Bough. The epigraph of the poem is from Satyricon. It means " I want to die." The boredom mechanical routine, sex perversity and commercial instinct of the modern man is responsible, for what the psychologists call the 'death-wish'. The number of suicides in the western world is on the increase.


      Literary allusions : The 'death-wish' is evident in the second stanza (line. 20) refer to the Bible - "Then shall the dust return to the earth." The water image and the sailor symbol are present in the love-story of Tristan and Isolde. The Tarot pack of cards which was used in ancient Egypt for forecasting the rise and fall of the Nile river is today used by Madame Sosostris for fortune-telling. The creative function of water is evident in the line of The Tempest - "Those are pearls that were his eyes".

      Baudelaire's unreal city today is not Paris but London. It is a city of commerce catering to the sex perversities of merchants. The game of Chess refers to Middleton's play Women Beware Women. The seduction of the girl is another case like Philomela's who was raped by her sister's husband. No one pays attention to her pathetic song of suffering. On the other hand, her song is taken as an invitation to sex. The Cleopatra of Egypt is today seated in her decorated and lighted drawing room. Her sex perversion has turned her into a bundle of nerves - "My nerves are bad tonight". The allusion to rat's alley with dead man's bones mirrors the conditions of the modern world.

      Tiresias is the protagonist representing both the ancient and the modern worlds. What he sees is the substance of the poem. The allusion Buddha's Fire sermon has a close reference to the fire of lust with which the modern world is burning. Similarly, the allusion to Carthage of St. Augustine's day and his personal Salvation comes very close to Eliot's plea for individual reform and redemption. The allusion to Hieronymo's cry may well apply to the poet's protests against modern society. The very jumbling of allusion from different authors as varied as Dante, Shakespeare, Webster, Verlaine Middleton, Miss Weston, and ages so distant as ancient Egypt, India and the land of the Upanishads and St. Augustine's Carthage effectively mirrors the confusion and decay of the modern chaotic civilization.


University Questions also can be answered..

1. Explain the use of quotation, contrast and parallelism in "The Waste Land."

2. Write a note on Eliot's use of quotations in The Waste Land.

3. Examine the charge that the poem is over-burdened with allusions.

4. What is the function of allusion in The Waste Land?" Is the device successful?

5. "The Waste Land is fragmentary in form and unnecessarily packed with literary quotations and allusions." Examine the statement critically.

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