Who is Tiresias, and what is his role in The Waste Land?

Tiresias is a blind prophet who appears in Greek literature, including the works of Homer and Sophocles. In The Waste Land, his world-weary, cynical voice connects the sordid present with the distant past.

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Tiresias is a blind prophet from Thebes who makes various appearances in Greek literature, perhaps most notably in Homer's Odyssey and Sophocles's Oedipus Tyrannus and Antigone. In the two plays, his words are angrily dismissed, first by Oedipus, then by Creon, making it seem that, like Cassandra, he is fated to tell the truth without being believed. Tiresias was transformed into a woman for seven years, giving him an unusually wide range of human experience.

T. S. Eliot only mentions Tiresias by name during a single section of "The Fire Sermon," but he alludes to him obliquely throughout the poem. In his own notes, Eliot says that Tiresias is an important unifying figure in The Waste Land, and it is clear that this role is closely connected with Tiresias's union of male and female in his own person. He introduces himself in just these terms:

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts ....
Tiresias then describes a lackluster sexual encounter,...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 860 words.)

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