Why did Eliot use the title "wasteland?"

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The title comes from the myth in Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance. In this myth, the genitals of the Fisher King are wounded. This affects his fertility and then affects the kingdom, which becomes a wasteland. The kingdom can not regenerate itself. It is static and infertile. From Ritual to Romance is an examination of the lore of the quest for the Holy Grail. So, the title also refers to the archetypal myth that a hero must go on a quest to rescue the kingdom. Elliot incorporated different languages as well as different religions, myths and symbols. This myth of the quest is common to many cultures and this was his point. Christ, King Arthur, Mohammed all go on quests to inspire, preserve or resurrect their kingdom.

The waste land itself symbolizes the post-World War I era. Elliot was commenting on moral and physical decay. The possibility of restoration refers to Eliot’s glimmer of hope for his era, but also the hope of the Fisher King in Weston’s From Ritual to Romance.

Using intertextuality and all these different cultural and religious myths, Eliot illustrates that restoration will occur through our common humanity. This is in response to that moral decay he experienced in the wake of World War I.

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