What is the main theme in the poem The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot?

The main theme in the poem The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot is the decline of all the old certainties that had previously held Western society together. This has caused society to break up, and there's to be no going back. All that's left to do is to salvage broken cultural fragments from a vanished past.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I wouldn’t feel comfortable reducing an intricate poem like “The Waste Land” to a single main theme. It might be more considerate to discuss a few central themes. You can pick the one that you feel is the most important.

One main theme is desire. Within the first three lines, Eliot is already talking about desire. He seems to claim April is the “cruellest month” in part because it mixes “Memory and desire.” In the second, there’s more desire with the woman and her “strange synthetic perfumes.” Also, in part two, there’s desire with Albert, who wants a “good time.” Lastly, you could argue the water and rock imagery links to Eliot’s theme of desire. In the poem, you could say desire flows freely while, at the same time, it’s somewhat immovable or hard to act upon.

Another main theme is communication or lack thereof. There are several snippets of dialogue, yet it’s not always clear who’s speaking. Sometimes people are talking and there’s no quotes. For...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1169 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on