Lizzie Essay

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The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot is a poem that creates a response of alienation and estrangement through its representation of the modern city. The Waste Land produces these feelings through the key themes of the poem and the literary techniques that distance the reader from the crux of the poem. The themes of death and relationships evoke an overwhelming sense of isolation as a result of the characters expeditions within a decaying city. On another level the literary techniques of allusions, parataxis, and impersonality, enables the reader to echo the feelings of alienation that the characters are experiencing. Death is a key theme of the poem that is characterized by the falling grandeur of modern cities. The poem’s opening quotation of the tale of Sibyl sets the tone for the entire poem as only death can offer her decaying body an escape. Furthermore the title of the first section ‘The Burial of the dead’ characterizes the human experience as one of death that permeates the poem. Eliot creates barren landscapes out of well-known cities as ‘stony rubbish’ sat next to ‘dead trees’, and ‘brown fog’ floated over vegetation’s ‘slimy belly’ filled with rats. The imagery of decay creates a landscape that only death can save one from. The city is described as Dante’s hell from Inferno, a possible limbo, ‘a crowd flowed over London Bridge’ as the narrator notes, ‘I had not thought death had undone so many’. The city is neither dead nor alive and in the ‘violet air’, in this ‘violet hour’ death is the only way to achieve life. Eliot’s mythical method of turning prosperous creatures into impotent, hopeless beings reiterates the death of the city. The Fisher King is sterile and the knight on the quest for the grail finds the chapel empty as ‘only the wind’s home’. The ‘sweet Thames’ is a poisoned river and the allusion to the holy city of Jerusalem is said in irony as

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