The Devastating Effects of the World War I on People's Lives in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land

Topics: The Waste Land

Herbert George Wells, an English author, once said, “If we don’t end the war, war will end us.” This explains exactly how the author T.S. Eliot felt about World War I because he feels as though the war, World War I, stripped Western Civilization of its traditions. Therefore, he feels Western Civilization remains in shambles. In The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, these opinions of Western Civilization’s loss of tradition are displayed by illuminating hell on earth with different people’s perspectives.

This war destroys the fabric that once held Western Civilization together; however, there remains a way to get out of this destruction caused by war. First, T.S. Eliot reveals an aristocratic woman’s miserable life. Then, he depicts a scene in which a speaker meets a ghost of a dead man. This scene displays the destructiveness and futility of war. Finally, T.S. Eliot exhibits a way out of hell on earth by stating that religion has the potential to free oneself from the despair that takes place on EarAt.

In the beginning of The Waste Land, an aristocratic woman displays misery.

Initially, a very wealthy woman exhibits the destruction that war causes by displaying the sterility and death of the earth. This woman says, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain” (55). This expresses the death and dryness of the land.

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When she compares spring, a season known for rebirth and growth, to wretchedness, she displays the death of the land. She posits that because the land remains dead, there will be no period of rebirth, which persists as being what usis happens. As a result of World War I, the season that brings about life, spring, can no longer bring the hope that it once could bring. Later, the woman says, “Son of man, you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead Ande gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water” (55). Again, the woman depicts the earth as being dead and dried up. She claims that everyone only knows a heap of broken images, a dead tree that gives no shelter, a cricket that offers no relief, and the dried-up land that remains sterile. The woman demonstrates that hell on earth exists, as she displays that the earth holds nothing good. The lives of everyone are miserable because of the war that left Western Civilization a shell of what it happened to be before the war.

Later in The Wasteland, another story takes place that illuminates the destruction of the war and the hell on earth that exists as a result. Secondly, the story of a man and a ghost-like figure, Stetson, reveals the horrors and destruction of war that leaves people with a hell on earth. In this story, a man walks the streets of London until he finds the ghost of a man, Stetson, who, during World War I, he fought against.

The man says, “I had not thought death had undone so many” (57). This indicates the sense of death that envelops the surrounding area of London. The ghosts of the dead are made apparent, which reveals a sense of death and lifelessness. After the war, lifelessness proves to be everywhere. Consequently, the ghosts of the dead represent the death of humanity and traditions, as they are the remains of a person killed during the war. Later in the story, the man asks, “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?” (57). This correlates to the story of the aristocratic woman because they both display that the land of the earth frosts over and leaves everything dead as a result of the war. The man wants to know if there will be a rebirth after the frost has taken over the land. This man exhibits uncertainty. He does not know if the death that currently resides upon the land will ever leave. This illuminates the devastation that the war causes to everyone. In addition to a copious amount of death that surrounds the man, uncertainty proves to be an issue because the war brought about hell on earth. Although Eliot exhibits how much devastation and destruction the war has brought to Western Civilization, he still believes that there remains a way to escape the hell on earth that seems unrelenting.

Lastly, religion paves the way to freedom from the hell on earth caused by the destructive war. In The Fire Sermon, the story shifts away from reality, as it begins tons consider religion. In this story, the speaker says, “I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives, old man with wrinkled breasts…” (62). The speaker proclaims himself Tiresias. Also, he says that he has both male and female genitalia, rendering him a hermaphrodite. A hermaphrodite would be able to represent both a male and a female, as a hermaphrodite remains neutral between the two. This separates Tiresias from the rest of the humans. He sees no hope in humans, as they cause destruction, violence, and war. Instead, Tiresias offers an entity that becomes a symbol of religion. Because religion remains extraterrestrial, there lies hope within religion.

Religion provides humans that are doomed to hell on earth with the ability to escape from earth.

Tiresias is a reprereligious figure. Therefore, he represents the promise of escape from the devastation caused by the war. Later, the speaker says, “Burning burning burning burning to burburn thruuckest me out O Lord Thou pluckest burning” (65). This repetition indicates that the fire and destruction that resides on earth will continue to destroy everything, meaning there lays no hope within humanity. The destruction of the war and traditions will metaphorically continue to burn. However, in the mining, the speaker says that the Lord pluckest you out, which means the removal of a person. This displays that the Lord and religion can remove a person from the burning and destruction that occurs within reality. Religion proves to be the only escape from earth doomed to war and destruction.

After World War I, Western Civilization was ravaged, leaving destruction and a loss of tradition in its wake. In The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, several stories display people’s perspectives and the effect that the devastation and hell on earth have on their life. Although the war ruins the old traditions of Western Civilization, religion remains a way out of the destruction caused by the war. In the beginning, the abysmal life of an aristocratic woman displays the destructiveness of war. After, a man speaks to a dead man whom he once fought in the war. In the end, religion offers the ability to escape the hell on earth that exists as a result of the war.

Although the damage caused by the war seems astronomical, anything outside of reality may have the ability to soothe the burns that are caused by the tragedy of reality.

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The Devastating Effects of the World War I on People's Lives in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. (2022, Jun 15). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/the-devastating-effects-of-the-world-war-i-on-people-s-lives-in-t-s-eliot-s-the-waste-land/

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