Book Review: The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Six Reasons to Not Like “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot | Tony's ...

“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.

-Coreen C.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: 9780307386885 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen skillfully combined the Cinderella theme with the fairy tale of the abandoned princess. Cinderella Fanny was brought up by an unworthy father, but without losing her natural goodness and gentleness. Fanny’s good qualities were in stark contrast to her shabby and dirty home in Puss. In Austen’s first several novels, the heroine’s moral standard is always higher than the traditional social concept, so that she can marry a good man. It is a reward for their good qualities, or compensation for their troubles and sufferings, and such heroines themselves are the yardstick of good judgment and good feelings. But Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, succumbed to the virtues of those around her, such as Sir Thomas, the only father of Austen’s novels to be praised, and Edmund.

Fanny sought the traditional virtues of good manners and religious feeling, and she became an ardent supporter of the traditional moral standards. The book also catered to the praise of many traditionalist critics at the time. In the novel, Austen used the gentle words and deeds of Fanny to express her moral educator’s idea that moral perfection is difficult to achieve and needs to be achieved at the cost of self-restraint and sacrifice. The female voice is required to be static, so her eyes become the most effective agent. Because in the spiritual life of England in the 19th century, the moral sense was very strong. The church and its moral precepts, which dominated people’s lives, evoked not a desire to save souls but a sense of duty.

Therefore, in Mansfield Park, Austen strictly rejected the vigorous spirit of the immoral Mary Crawford, and blindly affirmed the weakness of the holy Fanny who believed in Christianity. This strange and abnormal likes and dislikes are the core of the intention of this novel. Austen made this frightened little daughter from a poor family conquer all people with virtue and finally became the mistress of Mansfield Manor. It shows holiness and greatness, emphasizes the close connection between happiness and virtue, and firmly believes that a good person has the right to develop and fulfill herself according to her own nature and good deeds.

Antigone by Sophocles

oedipus_sophocles“Antigone” is one play in the book of The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. Antigone starts after Oedipus passed away in Colonus. It is a famous tragedy set in the disastrous city of Thebes. Some popular themes featured in the play are male vs. female, family ties vs. civic duty, and morality vs. law.

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, decide to return to Thebes to help their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. When they arrive at Thebes, the sisters come to know that both brothers have been killed. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, however, Creon refuses to do so for Polynices because he thinks he betrayed the city.  Antigone disobeys the law and buries Polynices anyway, in order to honor her brother and the life he lived. Creon finds out about the illegal burial soon enough, and when he locks Antigone up in a jail cell, she kills herself. The blind prophet Teiresias, Haemon, which is Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, and the Chorus beg to release her from prison, without the knowledge that she is already dead. Creon eventually surrenders, only to realize that she has killed herself. At the end of the play, Creon is left sorrowful and lonely, since nobody believed that his actions were justified.

-Nirmeet B.

Antigone is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library