“The Waste Land” is a long poem by English poet Thomas Eliot. “The Waste Land” consists of five chapters: The Burial of the Dead, A Game of Chess, The Fire Sermon, Death by Water, and What the Thunder Said. Eliot used a large number of allusions, including legends and myths, classical literature such as Dante and Shakespeare, religious elements such as Buddhism and the Bible, and even linguistic, anthropological and philosophical information. These allusions are not only the objective counterpart of the poet’s emotions, but also bear the whole structure of the poem through various metaphors. This collection of poems expresses the spiritual disillusionment of the Western generation and regarded as an epoch-making work in modern Western literature.
“The Waste Land” presents a big leap in thinking; the cohesion between images and scenes is often abrupt. The poet’s emotions lie behind strange images and symbols because these images and symbols correspond to the poet’s feelings. With many quotations, allusions, dialogues and scenes, it forms a colorful picture. The picture has different levels and contains an atmosphere that can fully arouse the reader’s imagination. The wilted wasteland — vulgar and ugly people who have died — the hope of resurrection running through the bleak and hazy picture of the whole poem composes the motif of “The Waste Land”. It profoundly shows the original appearance of the western society, which is full of human desires, moral depravity, despicable and dark life.
It also conveys the general disgust, disappointment, and disillusionment of westerners towards the world and reality after WWI. It shows the psychopathy and spiritual crisis of a generation, thus negating the modern Western civilization. At the same time, the poem attributed the depravity of western society to the sins of human beings and regarded the restoration of religious spirit as a panacea in saving the Western world and modern people. “The Waste Land”, a song lyric poem, has an eclectic style of expression, personifying symbolism and even metaphysics. It exhibits a riot of statements and sighs, of lyric and irony, of description and epigrams, of stately and elegant verses, of laughing and urban slang.
Described as “the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation,” The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s first masterpieces that established him as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Set in Paris in the 1920s, the novel explores the disillusionment and anxiety of the “lost” post-World War I generation. The story follows the unfortunate Jake Barnes, the ostentatious Lady Brett Ashley, and a disenchanted group of American and British expatriates on their journey to rediscover their purposes in life. From parties in Paris, to a fishing expedition, the group eventually finds themselves in Pamplona, Spain during a wild fiesta and bull-fight. The group’s encounters throughout the novel perfectly reflects the Lost Generation’s moral conflicts, spiritual disenchantment, unrealized love, and most of all, the tragedy of lost hope and dreams.
The Sun Also Rises was my first Hemingway book, so my expectations were quite high, especially because Hemingway is widely known as a literary genius. Upon first look, I personally felt that the novel was quite uninteresting. The characters seem to do nothing but drink and quarrel constantly. Although the writing is simple and very easy to understand, there is no plot and no climax. Although the group does journey outside of Paris and explores Spain, they ultimately end up exactly where they are when the book starts, stuck in Paris and wondering when love and adventure will find them. However, upon closer examination, I realized that this was Hemingway’s sole purpose, to portray the hopelessness and despair of the Lost Generation, men and women who served heroically in the war and returned only to find that they no longer had a purpose in life. Just as the title implies, the sun rises every day, and the novel’s characters repeat the same routine of drinking and partying and wandering aimlessly every day.
In retrospect, while the writing could tend to be lackluster in some parts, the book was quite enjoyable, and I can now appreciate the genius that Hemingway was behind the novel. He flawlessly depicts the Lost Generation and evokes the same feeling of confusion and aimlessness that the people during the post-World War I age experienced through his words, truly making The Sun Also Rises a literary masterpiece that should be experienced by everyone.
The Sun Also Rises is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.