Discussion Topic

Examining the structure and type of the poem "The Waste Land."

Summary:

"The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot is a long, sprawling poem divided into five parts with a disjointed narrative, reflecting a chaotic post-war society. It branches through many scenes, alluding to past works. Eliot's dissatisfaction with traditional English poetry led him to break structural norms. The poem includes both modern and ancient history, and mythology, aligning it with the epic genre.

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What is the structure of the poem "The Waste Land"?

Typical to his style, T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" is a long, sprawling, and almost encyclopedic work that branches through many scenes and alludes to past works on an epic scale. The structure of the poem is divided into five parts. Within these parts, Eliot uses a disjointed narrative that flows through a series of vague and surreal scenes. From a lackluster scene of seduction in a modern apartment to the death of a Phoenician on the open sea, these vignettes in seemingly random time and space cast a haunting light on the feeling of life in a post-war society.

At the time of writing this masterpiece, Eliot was extremely dissatisfied with the structural tendencies of English poetry, finding them tedious, boring, and exhausted. This break from structural tradition into chaotic verse, out of all of his work, is most prominent in "The Waste Land."

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What type of poem is The Waste Land?

According to The Modernism Lab at Yale University, Ezra Pound "defined an epic as a “poem including history" (Lewis).  The Waste Land definitely contains both modern and ancient history, as well as a heaping helping of mythology to boot.  So The Waste Land could be considered an epic poem for that reason alone.

Work Cited:

Lewis, Pericles. "The Waste Land." Modernism Lab. Yale. web. 1 Sep. 2012.

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What type of poem is The Waste Land?

The Waste Land is an epic poem.  Broken into five main parts with 434 lines, The Waste Land is one seriously long poem.  Epic poems are generally lengthy narrative poems, and Eliot's poem could certainly be classified as such, even though the poem itself does not follow any sort of defined story line. 

Although Eliot's poem does deal with themes of death, dying, and destruction, The Waste Land itself could not ever really be considered an epitaph simply for the reason of its length; an epitaph is a short phrase or quotation that pays tribute to or honors a dead person.  Another reason why The Waste Land is not an epitaph is because the poem does not really honor anyone or  any group; Eliot's poem addresses death and loss, but does not really seek to single out any one individual or group to recognize.

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