What are the themes of the poems "Burial of the Dead" and "The Game of Chess"?
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These are the first two of the five act-like sections of Eliot's masterpiece Waste Land (1922). It is too complex a poem/structure to reduce to particular thematic ideas in a very concrete way. The general themes of spiritual and moral waste, nothingness, ennui, alienation, sterility, despair, absurd communication, fragmentation of the world and a recession of divine faith are pervasive issues.
The Burial is one of the most nostalgic sections that has a revivalist effort going into it--an attempt to mix 'memory with desire'. The mystical experiences of the Hyacinth Girl passage or the constant surge of memory, reflecting on a buried past, the shadow of the dead rock that is tempting and soothing at the same time, a past of harmony and a present of desolation are accompanied by frustration and loneliness as in the London Bridge spectacle of death unmaking so many! The tarot-metaphor is also initiated, which above all connotes predestination.The blooming Corpse is an almost Ionescoecal image that closes The Burial.
The beginning of The Game brings in the horizon of the sexual as well as an anti-romantic contrast between the petty destitute figures of the present with the heroic opulence of the past. The mythological atmosphere is maintained throughout. The intertextual tissues from King Lear emphasise the note of nothingness. the circuitous monotony of daily life is another theme. Sexual non-rapport and unsatisfied marriages become central ideas in the dialogue at the pub where the waiter's refrain resonates with the apocalyptic nature of the poetic experience.
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