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MonkeyNotes-The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
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MOOD

The mood of The Waste Land is predominantly somber as befits a poem that focuses on societyís devastation and desolation. But it is not necessarily a picture of unrelieved gloom. There are a few brighter moments that bring a redeeming flash of irony or even humor which some may say borders on the grotesque. Part I has a predominant note of sterility with Tiresias sketching for us the barren waste land scenario in the first 7 lines, then in lines 19- 30("what are the roots that clutch? ...) and in the closing lines (60-77) that describes the "Unreal City" of London and its living dead. But in the countess Marie, sailor lad and Hyacinth girl sequences (lines 8-18, 31-34 and 35-41), the mood is one of "failed love" and the reminiscences of the past. Here the emotionally sterile waste land is highlighted, while the Madam Sosostrisí section (lines 43-59) brings in the mystical aura of a pseudo spiritual seance with a note of doom in most of her predictions, especially the fatal pronouncement: "Fear death by water."

Part II has two clear-cut shifts in tempo and mood. In the first half (lines 77-138) our senses are almost "drowned" in the stiflingly sensuous atmosphere of the Rich Ladyís boudoir. But our initial impression of awe at the grandeur of her bedroom and its surrounding gives way to despair and anxiety when we witness the neurotic ravings of this lonely woman. A feeling of deadness overwhelms one as one comprehends the fact that despite all her wealth and luxury she leads an empty, vacuous existence. The second segment a part II (lines 139-171) is relieved by the vibrant dialogues of the first cockney woman even if she indulges in mere trivialities and gossip about her friend Lil and her husband, Albert. One glimpses here spark of vitality in the breathless chatter of the women in the bar, but there is also the underlying tone of "deadness" as one gathers the details of Lilís over-fecund life.


Part III has overtones of dissipated sexual indulgence in the references to Mr. Eugenides, Sweeney, Mrs. Porter and her daughter or the description of the London typistís encounter with the carbuncular clerk. Again in the holiday trysts of the Thames or Rhine Maidens with "the loitering heirs of city directions," who have departed and "left no addresses." Eliot stresses on the lack of real loyalty and commitment in modern-day lovers who have no qualms about casual sexual encounters: "well now thatís done ... Iím glad its over," says the steno soon after her lover has left. A religious note is also struck in Part III, through the references to the Buddhaís fire sermon, St. Augustineís confessions" and the innocent voices of the children singing in the choir - loft of a Chapel: "Et O ces vain dí enfants chartant dans la couple." Part IV strikes the fatal note of doom in the brief elegiac lyrics to Phlebas, the drowned Phoenician sailor. Part V is predominantly religious in tone and mood, recalling moments of Christís life, death and resurrection, and Moses praying for water in the desert as he leads the Israelites from the clutches of the cruel Pharaoh to the Promised Land. Finally, there is the moment of eternal splendor as Prajapati intones his divine advice to give, sympathize and control. After all the ravings and rantingís of the frenetic modern waste land world. Eliot finally creates a mood of supreme peace and tranquillity in the last words of the poem "Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!" (i.e. "Peace!")

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