Marriage

Parallels between Eliot’s The Waste Land and the Grail legends can easily be drawn from due to Eliot’s implication of a waste land brought on by the Great War, but there are less obvious nods to the Grail legends. Jessie Weston in From Ritual to Romance (1920), re-iterates that Holy Grail questers, Gawain, Perceval, and Galahad have been tasked with restoring health, fertility or both. On page 20 Weston mentions, “There can be no doubt that the original Perceval story included the marriage of the hero.” A re-occuring theme in Eliot’s work is the disturbed dynamic between man and woman. In Grail legends, Perceval’s marriage was a solution that yielded rewards. Drawing on the idea that The Waste Land is heavily influenced by Grail legends, it makes sense that the lack of action between people in the poem is contributing to the perturbed picture Eliot illustrates. Upon entering the poem, Eliot wastes no time in letting us know that nature is off, and this includes traditional relationships,”Nothing again nothing/ Do you know nothing/ Do you see nothing/ Do you remember nothing/ I remember/ Those are pearls that were his eyes” (120-125). In the above lines, a wife is desperately trying to speak with her traumatized husband, who can only recall things about death and is unable to take any sort of action towards comforting her or himself which further implies impotence. Whereas Perceval’s union in the Grail legends reflected fertility and advancement, Eliot’s subjects seem to be stuck and unable to advance because nobody can take action.

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