The Burial of the Dead

Burying the dead is a ceremony which is suppose to both help with the deads’ transition to the afterlife and comfort the living, helping them to move on with their lives. The first section of The Waste Land presents a failure of this ceremony to do either. In the first 7 lines of the poem, the souls of the war dead are hanging around their buried bodies, seemingly unable to tell that they are dead. Maybe this is because life in the trenches is so similar to being buried. From either the trenches or their graves, soldiers can look up and see “A little life with dried tubers.” (7)

The burial ceremony also fails to adequately comfort those who survived the war. This causes many to suffer insomnia (“I read, much of the night,”(19)) and PTSD which can be seen in the interactions between the two veterans at the end of the section. This failure could be because the ceremony does nothing to address the underlying problems of why the war happened in the first place.


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