An Annotation of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Part 4, Death By Water Essay

An Annotation of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Part 4, Death By Water Essay

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An Annotation of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Part 4, Death By Water


Each of us has our own personal wasteland. The wasteland may manifest itself in many things; school, loss of love, loneliness, work, fear or doubt. In any case, a wasteland is a part of us that is clearly missing something and causes a distinct lack of completeness and a sense of uncertainty about our future. T.S. Eliot manages to capture the essence of that dry and forsaken feeling in his five-part poem entitled, The Wasteland. Using five different sections, Eliot ties weaves together an enchanting story that was influenced by the book by Jessie L. Weston entitled From Ritual to Romance. Her book tells the ancient myth of the Fisher King, who lived as the impotent King of the Wasteland. The myth introduces a figure called the "Deliverer" who is also known as the Phlebas the Phoenician Sailor, who must sacrifice his life to save that of the dying Fisher King in hopes of restoring the dry and fertile land once again. Although based off of an ancient myth, the poem is drenched with Biblical references and symbolic characters that offer connections to the life and death of Christ leading any reader to believe that Phlebas has every right to represent the person of Christ.

Section four of the poem contains a problem that must be solved before the end of the work. Section IV entitled Death by Water holds the death of the figure that represents the "Deliverer" of Christ. A mere ten lines in length so much depends upon the interpretation of that death. Two strong interpretations can be made from the lines, however they leave the reader with the very same question to ponder. The conclusion that the two interpretations share is the idea and existence of life afte...


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...ce of the wasteland. Humans running back and forth, never really accomplishing anything because they sense no greater purpose of meaning; they live in a dry, weary, compromised world…much like the life Eliot describes in part five where peoples faces "sneer and snarl (344)."

The entire poem the wasteland is a searching, a struggle for the truth, for salvation of the dry, arid, and deserted time Eliot is living in. Eliot recognizes that there needs to be some sort of a renewal, a salvation that is offered to all. He establishes the first part of that renewal in Part 4 with the death of Phlebas. Whether we look at Phlebas as Christ and his sacrifice for the world, or we see Phlebas as a mere mortal, we see that in order to bring peace, re-birth, and renewal, death must precede that new beginning.

Work Cited

"Consider." Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 1995.

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