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Waste Land Essay: Journey Through The Waste Land

T. S. Eliot drafted The Waste Land during a trip to Lausanne, Switzerland to consult a psychologist for what he described as mild case of nerves. He sent the manuscript to Ezra Pound for editing assistance. Between them the draft was extensively edited and published in 1922. As a modernist poet, Eliot struggled to remove the voice of the author from his work but the work is still a reflection of the author’s interpretation. He paints the picture as he sees it for the readers to view and interpret from their own perspective. The Waste Land could be viewed as a chronicle Eliot’s difficult and not quite successful journey to confront his own unconscious or spiritual reality. “Viewed psychologically, Eliot’s juxtaposition of scenes of sterility, fecundity, and sacrifice represents the speaker’s conscious awareness of a sterile society, and his abortive attempt to experience the unconscious” (Jones 22). Eliot’s depiction of a spiritually empty and lost society is a reflection of his inner search for a life-defining spiritual faith. Eliot’s message is that modern man leads a very hollow and disconnected existence because he has abandoned his spiritual values in pursuit of material wealth.

Eliot begins The Waste Land by bemoaning the fact that spring exudes false hope through its evidence of new growth and destroys the numbness and warmth acquired during winter’s hibernation from life or feeling. The return of feeling brings renewed acknowledgment of the emptiness and barrenness of modern life. “What Eliot wants to highlight is the pain of coming back to life” (Torrens 24). He expresses the cause of the pain in the description of the stony and barren landscape in which there is no shelter and nothing can grow. Man’s spirit can…

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…aracter of his poetry after his conversion. Bottum however would argue that although he possibly found a personal faith he was never quite able to present that faith in his later works. “What we encounter in his late poetry, however, is a profound confusion of faith with a brilliant and learned man’s rational understanding that he needs to have faith” (Bottum 23).

Works Cited

Bottum, J. “What T. S. Eliot Almost Believed.” First Things. April 1996. 21-6

Eliot, T. S. “The Waste Land.” The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. 6th Ed. Vol 2. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1992. 1751-64.

Jones, Joyce Meeks. Jungian Psychology in Literary Analysis: A Demonstration Using T. S. Eliot’s Poetry. Washington D.C.: University Press, 1979.

Torrens, James S. “T. S. Eliot: 75 Years of ‘The Waste Land.’” America. 25 Oct 1997. 24-7.

The Oppression of Women and The Yellow Wallpaper

The Oppression of Women and The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a fictionalized autobiographical account that illustrates the emotional and intellectual deterioration of the female narrator who is also a wife and mother. The woman, who seemingly is suffering from post-partum depression, searches for some sort of peace in her male dominated world. She is given a “rest cure” from her husband/neurologist doctor that requires strict bed rest and an imposed reprieve form any mental stimulation. As a result of her husband’s controlling edicts, the woman develops an obsessive attachment to the intricate details of the wallpaper on her bedroom wall. The woman’s increasingly intense obsession with the wallpaper ultimately leaves the reader with many questions about nineteenth-century male-female relationships, and perhaps even insanity.

Several critics have identified many significant and contrasting themes in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” For example, the contrast of the male-female relationship in the late nineteenth-century, which is an apparent link between the sex roles and seemingly oppressive sexual structures. Another significant theme is the ominous question of what lies behind the meaning of the structure and color of the wallpaper. Does it represent a symbolic realm of imagery, or a linguistic realm focusing on the identity of the spoken and written word?

More sympathetic critics like Gilbert and Gubar read “The Yellow Wallpaper” simply as a narrative of one woman’s efforts t free herself from the structured psychic, and social atmosphere—indeed, a rigidly constructed atmosphere that was very restrictive for a female of this day and time. They envisioned the wallpaper as being …

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…Conn: Yale University Press, 1979. 89-92.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. From the Heath Anthology of American Literature. ed. Paul Lauter, et al. D.C. Heath and Co. MA. 1994. 800-12.

Herndl, Diane. “The Writing Cure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anna O. and Hysterical Writing’” NWSA Journal no. 1 1988. 52-74.

Hedges, Elaine R. “Afterward” to “The Yellow Wallpaper” Old Westbury, NY. Feminist Press 1973. 12.

Jacobus, Mary. “An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Reading” Reading Women: Essays in Feminist Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press. 1986. 229-48.

Kolodny, Annette. “A Map for Rereading: or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts” New Literary History 11, no. 3 1980. 451-67

Treichler, Paula. “Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Tulsa studies in Women’s Literature. 1984. (75).

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