How does Eliot explore suffering and hope in The Waste Land and Other Poems?

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Various characters in The Waste Land suffer from the loss of common meaning and shared heritage brought about by the increased atomization of post-war Western society. The typist, for example, has a brief sexual encounter with her lover that is entirely devoid of meaning as well as joy. In this...

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Various characters in The Waste Land suffer from the loss of common meaning and shared heritage brought about by the increased atomization of post-war Western society. The typist, for example, has a brief sexual encounter with her lover that is entirely devoid of meaning as well as joy. In this rapidly fracturing society, people are separated from each other, occupying their own little worlds where they're forced back on their limited emotional and intellectual resources.

For some, this may seem liberating, but not for Eliot. He sees the radical separation of human beings from each other and from their shared cultural heritage—the heritage of what used to be called Christendom—as causing great spiritual suffering. People no longer know who they are; they're forced back on themselves, drawing upon their newfound freedom to create their own identities. But such identities cannot provide much in the way of stability for very long. Cut off from their heritage, each other, and most importantly of all, from themselves, people in the modern world find themselves trapped in a seemingly never-ending spiritual malaise.

Worse still, there doesn't appear to be much hope in this bleak cultural landscape. All that can be done is to retrieve as many of the broken fragments of Europe's cultural achievements as possible and see in them a possible way forward. On Eliot's reading, this is the only way that modern man can possibly escape from his present predicament. Whether he chooses to do so is another matter entirely. Nevertheless, so long as we can shore our fragments against our ruins, there is still hope, however remote, of redemption from the moral, intellectual, and spiritual sickness with which modern man is afflicted.

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