Impotence and Perlesvaus

I felt that the following excerpt from chapter 2 of Weston’s book closely aligns with Elliot’s notion of impotence in The Waste Land.  Weston summarizes Perlesvaus’ tale as follows: “There is here no cure of the King or restoration of the land, the specific task of the Grail hero is never accomplished, he comes into his kingdom as the result of a number of knightly adventures, neither more nor less significant than those found in non-Grail romances” (17).  This quote emphasizes how erroneous action rather than inaction culminates in the impotence of a government and its constituents.  The knight arrives in the kingdom but chooses not to ask the necessary question that would prevent the infertility of the king and kingdom.  Elliot appropriates this notion as a prevalent motif throughout The Waste Land in the sense that the war ends, yet death, destruction, and hopelessness prevail, and the poem’s denizens are unable to reach purpose or finality (the grail).  Take for instance the notion of romantic relationships within the poem.  These unions are largely platonic and impotent in that they are devoid of love, intimacy, pleasure, and children.  In part 2, “A Game of Chess,” out of sync, highly mechanized, and ineffective communication occurs between a husband and wife, thereby, constituting a lack of emotional intimacy.  The second relationship in this stanza contains an account of mechanical, unpleasant physical intimacy in the context of a sexual relationship that functions as a duty; since Albert has “been in the army four years, he wants a good time,” and it becomes Lil’s responsibility to remedy her physical appearance and provide for her husband’s needs.  The stanza’s speaker insinuates that the fact Lil has four kids and a past traumatic experience from sex and pregnancy should not hinder her ability to perform.  Therefore, these ineffectual romantic relationships fail to meet couples’ most basic emotional and physical human needs and serve as an example of how Elliot depicts life as a sterile entity.


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