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The Waste Land - Tasks

Based on this resource: The Waste Land (Part One and Two)

The Waste Land - Looking for a Meaning

  1. What is your first impression after having read the extract?
  2. Is it possible to sum up what these two parts of the poem are about?
  3. Do you see any signs of pessimism regarding Western civilization?
  4. Where do you find references to the war?
  5. How do you interpret the repeated “Hurry up please it’s time” in the last part? (Check notes for a suggested interpretation.)
  6. List some of the images and metaphors the poet uses in the text.
  7. Why do you think the first part is called “The Burial of the Dead”?
  8. What differences do you see between the first and the second part?
  9. 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?
  10. Where do you see references to death in the poem?
  11. Why do you think some lines are in brackets? How does that work?
  12. How do you interpret the references to Germany and the lines written in German?
  13. Do you think the explanations in "notes" are necessary to enjoy this kind of literature? Why / why not?
  14. 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…)
  15. As you see from the notes, there are many references to the Bible, what might that indicate?
  16. Can you see any consistency or system in the line structure of the poem?
  17. Do you find rhythm or rhyme?
  18. 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?)
  19. Pick an image or a sentence that appeals to you, and explain why.
  20. What makes this poem so typical of the modernist tradition?
  21. Reflect a bit on the fact that this poem is claimed to be one of the most important works of modern English literature.
  22. If your curiosity is stirred, search the net for the entire poem, read and enjoy.

Poetic details

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

Læringsressurser

Literature after 1900

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    There Will Come Soft Rains

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