Thursday, 30 October 2014

Issues in 'The Waste Land'

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN



Undoubtedly, ‘The Waste Land’ is a social document of our times, a poem which throws light on the problems, perplexities and disintegration of modern civilization. This integration is due to several reasons as mentioned below.

Sexual Perversion


Today, sex has been perverted from its proper function and is utilized for animal pleasure and monetary benefits. It has, therefore, become a source of degeneration and disease and a hurdle in man’s spiritual progress as well. Easy sexual relationships are found among all sections of society. Eliot cites the instances of German princess and the Lady of Situations. Further he mentions the story of Lil and the experiences of the three daughters of Thames. The typist girl has no emotional involvement in the sex act. She takes it as she would take as aspirin to get over a tension or a headache. Eliot sums up the story of the European lust through the words of St. Augustine:

                   To Catharge then I came
                        Burning burning burning burning

Loss Of Spiritual Values


          The poet questions Stetson about the corpse which he had planted in his garden last year. Had it bloomed this year? He further advises him to keep the dog away from the corpse as he may dig it up. The dog is the symbol of conscience which is likely to awaken humanity to its spiritual decay. The idea behind the corpse and the dog is that without faith and conscience man cannot be reborn. The dog may also refer to modern scientific philosophies which are outwardly beneficial to human beings but are really harmful for spiritual life. Man is not only the body but also soul and these philosophies neglect the soul. 

Lack Of Human Relationship


          People have become self-centered and egoistic. There is no sentiment of sympathy and compassion.

                   We think of the key, each in his prison
                        Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

          Each one of us thinks individually of the method of breaking out of his own cell. He is thereby inflating the ego. The ego isolates one individual from another and thereby prevents united action to come out of prison. The word Dayadhvam (to sympathize) is one of the secrets of man’s spiritual rebirth. We must give up our ego and isolation and work for the good of humanity. This will bring spiritual satisfaction.  

Mental Tension And Monotonous Routine Of Life


          Modern psychologists have shown that majority of people are abnormal. They suffer various types of mental illness on account of the worries and anxiety and challenges of the modern life. The fashionable society woman called Lady of Situation, is bored with her own life and has become extremely neurotic. Her lover, too, suffers from mental exhaustion. He says:

                   I think we are in rat’s alley
                        Where the dead men lost their bones

For the ordinary man and woman, a dead and meaningless routine is mentioned by the poet as:

                   The hot water at ten
                        And if rains, a closer car at four
                        And we shall play a game of chess

Politics And Wars


          An important cause of the disintegration of modern civilization is the enormous power wielded by politicians. They have the power to make war against other countries, without consulting their own people. By their own actions, they can bring untold miseries to their countrymen.

Millions of people were affected by war directly and indirectly.

                   What is that sound high in the air
                        Murmur of maternal lamentation

          So, Eliot has given a very clear picture of the disintegration of the European society after the First World War. But it may be noted that the decay of civilization is a part of the history of the mankind. Eliot draws upon the example of ancient history of Europe and India and shows how resurrection and rebirth is possible even today. The mythical method of Prajapati—Da Da Da suggests the unfailing remedy of the ills of modern world.

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