Modern culture, as envisaged by T.S. Eliot, is irredeemably fractured. In the years following the First World War, when The Waste Land was written, many of the old certainties had vanished. The rise of mass society, with its extension of the franchise and its democratization of culture had undermined the traditional foundations of Western civilization.
But even Eliot realizes that there is no going back. There is no way in which we can recover the lost classical heritage now being destroyed by the disruptive spirit of the democratic age. The voice of authority has been undermined in politics, society, and culture alike. This explains the fractured nature of the many voices we hear throughout the poem. There is no one voice—nor can there be. There is simply a mixture of voices, each uncomfortably co-existing together in an "unreal city," which could be anywhere. In such a fractured world, it doesn't really matter.
"What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the...
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