I call this one, “The Waste Land”




The cover image of Bruno’s Weekly (volume 1, no. 20) caught my attention, and the entry in there I would like to address is on page 15 and is titled Phantasies. I think several comparisons can be drawn between this entry, Eliot’s The Waste Land and the Tzara manifesto. Phantasies opens with a lonely man who is retreating inward after his lover leaves him. He retreats far enough into himself that he seems to live in a fortress. At first he enjoys it, but it becomes corrupted as it is not actually protected from the outside world.

Phantasies has some echoes of part two of The Waste Land‘s “Game of Chess” because inside the speaker’s “fortress” he experiences disgust of fumes of wine, and of lusty laughter. Saying the speaker’s fortress is internal makes sense considering he asks why women bring heartbreak, and answers with because “she lives with us.” The speaker seems to blame himself for his lover’s departure, hence the eventual corruption of his internal fortress. There is also something about this that echoes Tzara because the speaker casually contradicts himself by saying that “Woman is made to please us” and then, “But they do not please us.” Tzara, in his manifesto, seemed uncaring for “science” and finite or set answers. I think the contradiction of the rule “Woman is made to please” in Phantasies, is what echoes Tzara the most.

The Rag

The lyrics to the “Shakespearean Rag” refer to Shakespearean tragedies and characters that end up dead. The beginning part of the second second half of the song says “it’s different now… play a tune.” In my opinion, the lyrics seem to imply that the rag is an avoidance or distraction considering the cheery command juxtaposed to the various tragedies. I think I feel this way because I read Eliot’s reference to it before. In part two the reference to the rag follows discomforting dialogue. It also follows a reference to The Tempest and more specifically to a song in The Tempest. As we know, Ariel’s song from The Tempest  is not cheerful.

Eliot on Middleton

Eliot writes that Middleton’s strength is not projecting a personal viewpoint into the morality of his characters. For example, Eliot seems to think that the characters in both his tragedies and comedies are imbued with the same vain and seedy motivations that apply to and also transcend the Elizabethan era. Middleton’s influence on The Waste Land is probably most apparent in part two. The two women who appear in part two appear in different scenes/ scenarios and contrast greatly from one another. After reading Eliot’s essay, it can be inferred that their characters are both inspired by Middleton. For example, the wealthy woman at the beginning of part two is surrounded by luxury but it is extremely overdone. The wealthy woman goes on to plan the stages of her day, which tie the stanza back to the title of the section, “A Game of Chess.” The woman towards the end of part two plotting the next part of her seduction of a married man. These two characters fit Eliot’s description of Middleton’s characters as “vain.” In Middleton’s play, Women Beware Women, the characters of Bianca and Livia perhaps the more vain and selfish characters. Their motivations as desperate, knifing, and self-centered reflect the women in part two of The Waste Land.


As far as this week’s texts go, a somewhat of a common thread running through Dante’s work, as well as the stories of Philomela and Tiresias, is a state of limbo or repetition.  Philomela, Procne, Tereus, are all turned into birds, and it is implied that they spend their days flying around, unable to communicate with others. In The Waste Land, these characters are trapped within the work, chirping, still unable to communicate. The state they exist in within the poem reminds me of Dante’s early circles of Hell, where souls are condemned to the same situation for all eternity.

Tiresias, Philomela, and some characters introduced by Dante, all have something in common in that they all have lost a sense. Tiresias loses his sight, Philomela her speech and for those souls trapped in limbo; their passion, meaning they are not able to accept God or denounce him. This thread is something that runs through The Waste Land as well. We discussed how there is a loss of the sense of touch, or that touch is never mentioned. Also, like the souls in purgatory, Eliot’s subjects are unable to take a kind of action, not just proper action but any kind of action at all (excluding the young man carbuncular).

The character of the Medicine Man makes more sense to me when thought of as something that re-fertilizes the land. This character is different from the others in this week’s readings and I’m not sure yet how he relates to them.


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.

Zombie People

In part three of Eliot’s The Waste Land, following a possible sexual assault, a woman goes about her evening,

“Hardly aware of her departed lover;/ Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:/ ‘Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over” (250-52)

If not for previous hints that this woman is “bored and tired” (236), one could assume she may be in shock from the assault. In my opinion this does not seem to be the case. It is obvious she did not particularly enjoy her date, but had the sex been consensual, or the date with another man, she still would not be able to enjoy it.

This goes back to our discussion on day 1 about the state of society after WWI. Instead of being elated, society was still somber due the shock and sadness of  unjustifiable death. The tone of post war society is represented well by this woman who has a guest for dinner, and simply goes through the motions of conversation and intimacy. This type of routine is paired with a gramophone,

“She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,/ And puts a record on the gramophone” (255-56)

A gramophone is mechanical and a piece of technology that plays pre recorded sounds. Like her gramophone, the woman seems mechanical, and the gramophone’s function reminds me of the routine the woman seems to be preforming.