Death in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and Maddy's No Past, No Present, No Future

Death in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and Maddy's No Past, No Present, No Future

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Death in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and Maddy's No Past, No Present, No Future


Death is an inevitable fact that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. Whether it is losing a friend, family member, someone famous and well known, or finally themselves, everyone knows what it's like to deal with the topic of death. In The Wasteland T. S Eliot is describing death with a very different approach which makes death seem poetic yet very dreary and uninviting. On the other hand, in Yulisa Amadu Maddy's book No Past, No Present, No Future death is not poetic at all but very cold and melancholy.

In No Past, No Present, No Future three boys become best friends and later their friendship is torn apart from the inside out until it finally dies. It began when Joe Bengoh came to live with Ade John and Santigie Bombalai after his parents died. That was the first death that Joe experienced. The second death affected both Joe and Ade when a girl Mary died. Mary was a prostitute who Joe lost his virginity to, and then afterwards Ade had sex with her. Mary claimed to be pregnant with Ade's child, and she committed suicide trying to abort the baby. Since Ade came from an elite and prestigious family his parents took him out of school and practically disowned him for disgracing their family name. That changed Ade's life from there on out because he was now alone and he wasn't going to let that mistake ruin all his dreams of becoming powerful and rich and wealthy. Joe was affected also by Mary's death because he held a deep sense of anger towards Ade for even having sex with the girl in front of him and later on down the road Mary's death has some part in tearing Joe and Ade apart.

Santigie also experienced death, and that was the death of his father who was the chief of his tribe. That death hurt him deeply because when his father died, he left the position of chief not to Santigie but to his uncle. Also, when his father died, he had to quit school at the Mission and begin working like Ade had, because his mother couldn't afford to keep him in school anymore. When Santigie left the Mission Joe Bengoh was all alone and turned to things that shaped his future.

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For instance, he began drinking regularly and visiting a whore house almost every night. After the whore house he hated women and did not trust them so he became homosexual. He also left the Mission began working with Ade and Santigie.

The brothers three left their hometown of Bauya and moved to London where they each experienced changes and the end result was a dead friendship which used to be so alive. Ade finished school and fell in love and was too good for Joe and Santigie. Santigie failed school and took out his revenge on the white women because he had given up and did not want to work anymore for his dreams. Joe almost finished school but got stuck with bills and tried to commit suicide because he felt there was no reason left to live.

The book began with death in Joe's life with his parents and ended with the last attempted death of Joe, yet he never accomplished it. Through all the deaths and changes in the boys lives, their friendship did not hold as they had planned. They grew apart and became people that each one did not know and couldn't relate to. They knew that they would never be anything great without each other, yet they would never be able to get back what time, and ultimately death, had taken away from them.

T. S Eliot understood the effects that time could cause and the inability to regain what had been lost. In The Wasteland Eliot illustrates life through death by writing about life with the ever present fear of death. Eliot was writing during World War I and everyone was in a constant state of fear, not knowing what was going to happen next. The poem's epigraph was a sign of pessimism which Eliot used to approach his subject of death, and it was taken from the Satyricon, in which a Sybil looked at the future and proclaimed that all she wanted to do was die. The Sybil can't die though because it is a woman with prophetic powers who ages but never dies. Eliot used this Sybil to display how he felt about his own life and culture: That he lived in a culture that had decayed and withered but will not abate, and he is forced to live with reminders of the glory it used to be. Eliot's story revolves around Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance and Sir James Frazier's The Golden Bough. These two works both describe the story of the Fisher King, who was wounded in the genitals, and his lack of potency was the cause of his country to become a depleted "waste land." The only way to regain the fertility of the land was to heal the Fisher King. Eliot used the figure of the Fisher King legend's wasteland as an appropriate description to the state of modern society. In Eliot's world though, there was no way to heal the Fisher King.

The Wasteland dealt with regeneration and fertility, and Eliot made quite a few sexual innuendoes to get the point across that the times were dead just as the Fisher King's potency was dead. He opened the poem with the happy month of April, yet it was not so happy with pilgrimages and storytelling. April is the time when the land should be regenerating after a long winter, yet regeneration was a painful process, because it brought back painful memories of a more fertile and happier past. The topic of memory, particularly when it involved remembering the dead, was a main theme of The Wasteland. Memory created a confrontation of the present with the past, a juxtaposition that pointed out just how badly the world had decayed.

In both of the two works No Past, No Present, No Future, and The Wasteland, the memory of past issues and confrontations created a sense of lifelessness and death. Whether it was between friendships and dreams or whether it was literally the death and decay of a once great city. These works show that time and remembrance do not heal a hurt or a wrong, but that they magnify the problem. As the Fisher King in Eliot's world couldn't provide fertility and regeneration the country was doomed to despair and eventually would die with all it's dreams and future.



Works Consulted

Eliot, T. S. The Wasteland, Prufrock and Other Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998.

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

"The Wasteland." 2001. Sparknotes.com. 30 March, 2001. <http://www.sparknotes.
com/poetry/eliot/section2.html>.
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