T.S Eliot “The Wasteland”
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T.S Eliot-“The Wasteland”
In T.S Eliots wide-ranging poem “The Wasteland,” the reader journeys through the industrial metropolis of London by means of multiple individualistic narratives concerning the inert existence of those living in a place consumed by a fast paced economy. Eliot focuses on the negativity that a cold and synthetic setting can impose on the natural human qualities of a society, almost completely wiping out necessary characteristics like compassion and enthusiasm. The city is no longer composed of healthy interwoven relationships, but is instead transformed into a secluded society lacking commonality and teeming with lives and voices that do not interact or mesh with one another. Eliots representation of urban life shows the pangs of a “community” enveloped by impersonal commerce, where the vital morals of togetherness and love for your fellow man are replaced by the cold harsh reality of fast paced industry. Eliots main concern is that in the name of industrial progress we will cause irreparable damage to the natural traits of healthy human beings, thus involuntarily crippling ourselves for the sake of economic prosperity.
In de-emphasizing innate human qualities such as compassion and enthusiasm, the inhabitants of the city are killing the essential building blocks of human relationship.
Without a tightly knit population, people are forced into solitary thought, which results in interaction only with ones self. The satiating comfort of community is replaced with the fear and anxiety that isolation instills. Among the many multifarious and volatile narratives that start off this poem, Eliot takes a seemingly mundane commute of mechanistic employees and relates it to the dehumanization of workers in society. Here we are introduced to a group of people trotting along on the way to work as one indistinguishable mass; lost in the routine actions a city bent on economic growth feeds them. They are no longer distinct individuals, but are transformed into mechanical beings, all possessing the same “fixed eyesbefore…feet” mentality by passively casting their glances downwards, mindlessly conforming instead of taking hold of their own existences. Their positions as workers, almost in a Communistic sense, consumes them as they become a transfixed part of an industrial herd, held prisoner by the unchanging bars of an economic prison and concerned only with menial tasks. The workers, in an act of submission, replace their natural state as connected individuals with one labor supplying machine that adheres only to the powerful voice of a fast paced, mass producing city. As stated by political philosopher Bernard Mandeville, human beings are animals driven by their passions. The single focus of this city has stripped its inhabitants of the passions that by nature are their right. This uniquely human emotion is devastated while industrialism takes its hold rendering its advocates unable to grow or change.
The same feeling of lacking individuality and unity is also conveyed in the horrific scene in which the speaker and a woman are engaged in conversation, both
searching for human compassion, but are unable to communicate. They are seated in an ornately decorated room together, but the only emotions present are not those of affection, but of anger and apprehension. The materialistic city has poisoned their minds, like the “strange synthetic perfumes” (87) that poison the ambiance of the room, and the only focus of conversation is placed on their possessions, an evil which has completely consumed their lives. It is slightly ironic that a substance manufactured to be pleasant smelling can only be negatively depicted by an author that, unlike the characters described, is a natural human and uncorrupted by the evils of technology. The perfume serves to in itself be a microcosm of the industrial revolution at hand. The abundance of goods available is a huge concept for the people to handle and only “troubles and confuses” (88) them. But their troubles are soon forgotten, masked by the initially sweet smelling fragrance of prosperity, they “drown in the sense of odours” making it even more difficult to understand one-another. The differing aims of both of these characters illustrate the industrial “growth,” that in reality only impairs our senses. As the woman desperately tries to gain the attention of the speaker, unyielding in her attempts to gain his compassion, she becomes more frenzied and confusion heightens. Perhaps this scene in which a home is violated by the materialism of industry is symbolic of how the current status of the city will eventually completely destroy and paralyze the once natural state of being and advocate a life devoid of emotion and compassion.
The last realization that the speaker comes