T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land - The Most Influential Work in Modern Literature

T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land - The Most Influential Work in Modern Literature

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T.S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land" - The Most Influential Work in Modern Literature


T.S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land" is considered by many to be the most influential work in modern literature. First published in 1922, it captures the feelings and sentiments of modern culture after World War I. Line thirty of "The Waste Land," "I will show you fear in a handful of dust," is often viewed as a symbol of mankind’s fear of death and resulting love of life. Eliot’s masterpiece—with its revolutionary ideas—inspired writers of his era, and it continues to affect writers even today.

In the first two lines of "The Waste Land," Eliot says, "April is the cruellest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land" (l. 1-2). Eliot shows the connection between death (emptiness) and life (fulfillment). Flowers and trees awaken and grow after the long, harsh winter months. The plants receive nutrients—and life—from the decayed remains of past vegetation. Yulisa Maddy’s No Past No Present No Future begins with the same ideas of new life beginning out of death. Joe Bengoh, after witnessing the fire that destroys his house, mumbles, "My parents dead?" (3). His callous words hardly conceal his true feelings of contempt for his parents. Joe’s suppressed jubilation is apparent in his next few thoughts. He thinks that, after the tragic death of his parents, Father O’Don will surely accept him at the mission house. In an attempt to make himself look troubled and distraught, Joe sticks his finger into his mouth and then rubs his eyes. Joe "kept on doing this until his eyes went red and felt as if he had been crying" (6). Joe ends up being accepted to the mission house, and he becomes inseparable from his new friends, Ade John and Santigie Bombolai. Joe’s new, positi...


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...ecognize these changes in his work.

The works of Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald follow Eliot’s, and America’s, ideas and trends. Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929) also deals with World War I and the modern ideas toward sex. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) portrays the alcoholism and sexual promiscuity of the Jazz Age. In No Past No Present No Future, The "Brothers Three" use alcohol and drugs quite frequently, and they all tended to sleep around as well. The revolutionary ideas described in Eliot’s "The Waste Land" influenced many great writers in the past and continue to have an impact on authors today.

Works Consulted

Bible, The. New International Version. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996.

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land, Prufrock and Other Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998.

Maddy, Yulisa Amadu. No Past No Present No Future. Oxford: Heinemann, 1996.

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