T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

 The opening lines of poem begin with an examination of nature from the third person and morph into a first-person experience of a particular season, summer. The only separation between the idea of summer and the narrator is a semi-colon. “With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade”. This transition from a highly proper and traditional reference to an improper, almost colloquial style is swift and uncompromising and continues throughout the rest of poem.

Tension and contradictions are also introduced in the form of content. For example, Sibyl’s yearning for death in the Satyricon quotation is in stark contrast to the representation of death in the opening lines of the first stanza. The narrator in the opening lines sees death everywhere, thus appears to recoil against the thought of it.

This is particularly evident in the way that Eliot chooses to introduce the concept of spring. Instead of presenting spring as a rebirth, a time of ecstasy, bliss and happiness, Eliot presents a description of a land full of apathetic death. The poem starts with a categorical statement that “April is the cruelest month”. Eliot then elaborates as to why by contrasting it with the other two seasons, winter and summer. But instead of portraying winter as a cold, dark, and barren season, Eliot emphasizes that winter “kept us warm” by “covering Earth in forgetful snow”.  Summer is likewise presented in a positive light with its occasional showers and pervasive sunlight. Trapped within these two seasons is spring, a season that represents death but not the kind that Sibyl desires. (This is an excerpt from my paper for the second assignment).


 

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