What are some major Modernist themes found in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Wasteland is definitely famous for its bleak and pessimistic approach to life and society. How it manages to achieve this impact is nothing short of genius as such everyday, normal phrases such as the "Hurry up! It's time please!" of the closing of serving hours in a British pub is interspersed with fragmets from epic literature. Such an outlook on the "unreal world" of T. S. Eliot's poetry is distinctly modernist in its unyielding presentation of the mundane emptiness of life.

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Both on the level of form and content, The Waste Land is a quintessentially Modernist work. It presents a fragmented and chaotic world which is difficult to put together in a coherent picture. In his study All That Is Solid Melts into Air, cultural critic Marshall Berman has defined the experience of modernity as the experience of going through a vortex or a maelstrom. The Waste Land reproduces this experience by presenting seemingly unrelated fragments taken both from modern life and from history and mythology. Another important Modernist theme is the disappointment and pessism towards modern life, experienced as cultural and moral decay after the trauma of the First World War, a historical event that deeply influenced Modernist works and their outlook on modern society.

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