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What does the waste land symbolize in Alan Paton's short story "The Waste Land"?    

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myraroslan101 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM via web

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What does the waste land symbolize in Alan Paton's short story "The Waste Land"?



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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM (Answer #1)

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The title "The Waste Land" of Alan Paton's short story about a South African town reveals the author's attitude toward the setting.  The town is dreary and lawless, a place of crime and death.  Paton's title also makes the reader consider T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland" which portrayed a ruined civilization.  In Paton's story, the town also becomes a metaphor for ruined civilization; Paton's portrayal depicts the town as a "wilderness of wire and iron."  The city scape is dark, unforgiving urban environment, basically epitomizing everything evil connected to the unnatural city life.   

In the waste land, even positive elements like the family and the church transform into hostile forces; for example, the man's son is part of the gang that tries to rob him, and they use the high wall of the convent, which normally should be a sanctuary and safe place, as a place to trap the man so he cannot escape. The town comes to symbolize corruption and decay of civilization.


Kristen Lentz

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