The oral discussion on The Wasteland, deepened my understanding of the cultural and contextual elements of the poem through the classes in depth analysis. As a class, we learned about the history of modernism in the United States and the feeling of animosity T.S Eliot had towards urbanization and industrial influence in the country. This enabled me to further comprehend the purpose of the symbols, allusions and images in The Wasteland.
Before analyzing the piece with my peers, the relation between Phlebas and the prophecy of Madame Sosostris was unclear to me. Eliot portrays Phlebas’ death to be obscure. I realized after the insightful discussion that there’s a deeper meaning to this section. In one of Madame Sosostris prophecy’s in the first section she mentioned “Fear death by water” after pulling the card of the Drowned Sailor. Thus, this section fulfills that prophecy. Furthermore, the section was written in a form that mimics that of a biblical parable, which suggests the rich significance that lies in Phlebas’ death. Phlebas offers the lesson that physical reality of death and decay triumphs over all, especially since he is not resurrected or transfigured.
Another question I had on The Wasteland prior to the enlightening annotations observed with my classmates was the valid meaning of the three things the thunder says. I noticed the theme of hopelessness throughout the section. Finally towards the end, there is a miniscule amount of hope that reemerges with the thunder, just as water would reemerge with thunder. The thunder plays a very noteworthy role in the poem. Eliot gives the impression that God is delivering the lines of “Da” to three distinct groups of followers. Those followers were the men, the demons, and the gods. Datta was directed towards humans, which means to give. Dayadhyam was meant for the devils, meaning to have compassion for others. Lastly, damyata was the message to the gods, which is translated to control oneself. The combination of the three different morals directed to diverse groups, make up a moral perspective of reaching inner peace.
After the oral discussion, I have a better understanding on how Eliot demonstrates his perspectives on the degrading influence modernism had on the culture and people. Moreover, I now have a deeper knowledge on the topic of modernism and its cultural and contextual implication. I definitely believe this poem embodies the events that make up the time period and the consent the author had towards it. The masterpiece’s annotations further helps the reader feel the disillusionment in the time, after World War I.