Based on this resource: The Waste Land (Part One and Two)
The Waste Land - Looking for a Meaning
- What is your first impression after having read the extract?
- Is it possible to sum up what these two parts of the poem are about?
- Do you see any signs of pessimism regarding Western civilization?
- Where do you find references to the war?
- How do you interpret the repeated “Hurry up please it’s time” in the last part? (Check notes for a suggested interpretation.)
- List some of the images and metaphors the poet uses in the text.
- Why do you think the first part is called “The Burial of the Dead”?
- What differences do you see between the first and the second part?
- Many sequences of part two are in reported or direct speech. How does that work? Who are the people talking, and what are they talking about?
- Where do you see references to death in the poem?
- Why do you think some lines are in brackets? How does that work?
- How do you interpret the references to Germany and the lines written in German?
- Do you think the explanations in "notes" are necessary to enjoy this kind of literature? Why / why not?
- Compare this poem to the Dylan lyrics you find here, do you see any similarities? Follow also link for the full-length lyrics of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row" and compare to “The Waste Land”. (Dylan has obviously read Eliot…)
- As you see from the notes, there are many references to the Bible, what might that indicate?
- Can you see any consistency or system in the line structure of the poem?
- Do you find rhythm or rhyme?
- Point out some words or images that contribute to creating the mood or atmosphere of the poem. (What do you think is the mood of the poem?)
- Pick an image or a sentence that appeals to you, and explain why.
- What makes this poem so typical of the modernist tradition?
- Reflect a bit on the fact that this poem is claimed to be one of the most important works of modern English literature.
- If your curiosity is stirred, search the net for the entire poem, read and enjoy.
Discuss the poetic effect of these images:
- Lidless eyes
- A wicked pack of cards
- Fear death by water
- One must be so careful these days
- A carved dolphin
- Savagely still
- A closed car at four
- Withered stumps of time
- Winter kept us warm
- Synthetic perfumes
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