Women Beware the Wasteland

I had a hard time remembering exactly why we were studying Women beware Women for this class. As I read, I could not find any immediate connection to the Wasteland until I read the footnote. The second part of the poem is titled “A Game of Chess” after the play. In this section of the poem, Eliot writes about the story of Philomel who was raped by her sister’s husband. In that story, the two women band together to fight Tereus; this is a very different arrangement from what happens in Women Beware Women. In Women Beware Women, as the name suggests, women do not help one another, Livia works with the Duke to corrupt Bianca leading to a bloody ending for all. Women in the play are both pawns and players in the game, with no prejudice for whose life they toil.

As the poem goes on, Eliot includes a conversation between two women at a bar. Lil’s husband Albert is coming back after four years in the army and Lil’s friend tells her to work on herself. Her looks were never the same after taking the abortifacient, she has had five kids already at the age of thirty-one but her friend still does not think her abortion was justified. Instead of showing sympathy, her friend tells her it is her problem and that Albert deserves a good time. “Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said, / What you get married for if you don’t want children?”(Eliot 163-164). There is no solidarity between women in the Wasteland just as there is no solidarity in Women Beware Women. Eliot has shown the erosion in relations between men and women post-war and now he is showing the degradation of the homosocial sphere as well.

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