That Damn Gramophone

“She liked to go to plays and to dance to the music on the phonograph” (61). If that doesn’t place the presence of Vivien starkly within the world of the “The Waste Land” then I don’t know what would. The influence of Vivien on Eliot’s ideals and morality is stark and becomes incarnate in the plot of “The Waste Land.” His marriage to Vivien began a “lifetime of misery,” and her youthful identity and sexuality become adversarial within the poem (64). Her presence is obvious in “The Fire Sermon” where a young woman insipidly accepts sexual attention and then dances to the gramaphone. Vivien “possess[ed] mental passion but not physical passion” and her own difficulties compounded Eliot’s already tense and morally anxious relationship with sexuality (66). She possessed the freneticism of the post-war generation and all the instability that came with it, which first attracted then repelled Eliot. It is fascinating to see how deeply Eliot’s personal life influenced his poetry and how he utilized classism to explore his own relationship and to put his own suffering into a broader context.

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