Conversational Tone of The Burial of the Dead

I’d never read The Waste Land before this assignment, so my expectations were based entirely on what we’d discussed during the first class. As such, I’d expected the first section, “The Burial of the Dead” to be more directly and obviously about World War I and its aftereffects. While the theme of death is certainly omnipresent in this section, I could not immediately find connections to World War I. I’m sure as we continue to study the poem, however, such connections will become clear.

I was also surprised by the tone of the poem. At times, “The Burial of the Dead” feels like a stream of consciousness, but there’s also a very conversational aspect to it. This is especially noticeable when the poet/narrator addresses someone directly: for example, “You gave me hyacinths first a year ago,” “Here, said she, is your card,” or “Stetson! You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!” While most of the first section sounds like an individual (or various individuals) reflecting on events from their life, these interjections of conversation create a web of characters within the poem.


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