How does T. S. Eliot Depict modern man in the waste land, the hollow men and Ash Wednesday? please quote the source...   i need it be academic...I neeed it in detail....

nusratfarah | Student

In brief I'll try to give reply to your answer, as the question can not be answered to within a short space of this page.

Thomas Stearns Eliot's The Waste Land which is, according to F. R. Leavis, "great and positive achievement and one of the first importance for English poetry", is the best depiction of modern human's life. Modern people's problems especially after the World War, have become extremely intricate. As the natural world has become barren outwardly because of massive death & destruction, the internal state of humans has become complex as well as perverted. They are going through a life-in-death situation, always in fear of death like "a handful of dust" ('Burial of the Dead'). Moral values have lost dignity. Perverted sex has become a part & parcel in their daily lives. In fact, innocence is considered as perversion. Like Prufrock, every modern human is hopeless. In this waste land, the modern men are like "heap of broken images" ('Burial of the Dead'), where "the dead tree gives no shelter, cricket no relief" ('Burial of the Dead'). Humans have lost true feeling for others, and that's why, in sex, love does prevail no more. The typist girl, after making love like a machine, feels "glad" when the job is "over" ('The Fire Sermon'). Women have to remain cautious always to prevent their partners from going away to other women, they are used mere as a tool to produce children; the overt taking of contraceptives destroy their health, yet, they can't bear giving birth anymore, so, they need pills. But, then, their husbands do not tolerate having such ugly & unproductive wives. Such is the condition of a conjugal life in the modern age. Besides, homosexuality has become a terrible threat to moral values. In "the Fire sermon", we see the Smyrna merchant to go through such relationship. Faith in God is overshadowed by the power of money & personal enjoyment. Men, busy for their own business purposes, are crossing the London Bridge at 9 am which is the time of Christ's crucifixion, meaning that, they are forgetting religious dogmas and emphasizing more on their worldly jobs.


"The Hollow Men" also is a shorter but still a nice portrayal of modern people. Modern men suffer from spiritual paralysis, spiritual decay:

"Shape without form.../Paralysed force..." (Part I).

Modernity has brought them to such a state that they have become straw figure, like a scarecrow (Part II) which, in a blow of wind, moves, otherwise has no dynamism of itself. In the poem, the speaker utters:

"This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised..." (Part III)

The reference to stone image is also found in The Waste Land, where modern men are compared to stony rubbish. Modern men have become stone-hearted; vacuity, emptiness and nihilism have grasped them.


In "Ash Wednesday", the depiction of modern men is also similar but not elaborately portrayed. By the way, here also, it is evident that modern man is spiritually barren & in quest for moral purification. Religion is the best possible solution for them. It represents the struggle of any devotee in this age. Here a devotee struggles going through self-examination, self-exploration, penitence and moving towards the path of spirituality.


These three poems of Eliot represent the true & real picture of modern man. But, in my opinion, you ought to quote more from the first two poems, no doubt.


Read the study guide:
The Waste Land

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