The Waste Land Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 24 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Waste Land.
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There are only two master themes in the poem, which in turn, generate many sub-themes. The first of these major themes is disillusionment, which Eliot indicates is the current state of affairs in modern society, especially the post—World War I Europe in which he lived. He illustrates this pervasive sense of disillusionment in several ways, the most notable of which are references to fertility rituals and joyless sex. First Eliot draws on the types of fertility legends discussed in Weston's and Frazer's books. For example, in the beginning of the first section, he uses an extended image of a decomposing corpse lying underground in winter, which "kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow, feeding / a little life with dried tubers." A tuber is the fleshy part of an underground stem, but here it is human flesh, feeding new plants. Human society is so disillusioned that...

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This section contains 427 words
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Poetry for Students
The Waste Land from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.