This poem made a lot of references to Greek mythology as well as some Hindu mythology, which I found somewhat confusing because I do not know much about the latter. I liked the poem but I can't say I understand it yet. I do think there is a part of this poem that speaks to the experience of women in the Western world and elsewhere, and how they have been treated in their relationships and encounters with men. Eliot references the story of Philomela. According to some versions of the story, she was assaulted by the king, who was her sister's husband, and had her voice taken away via the removal of her tongue. There is more to the story but that portion about Philomela being attacked by someone in her immediate circle seemed to parallel with the interaction found in section III of the poem. Even though it is not particularly violent, the woman still does not want to have relations with her husband or whoever this man is to her. He is indifferent to how she feels and "makes a welcome of indifference." This interaction is followed "(and I Tiresias have foresuffered all enacted on this same divan or bed...)" So, the woman, like Philomela, has been assaulted by someone that would be considered close to her. Tiresias seems to be empathizing with this more mdoern woman, saying he's suffered similar things in the same place. I feel that this could be Eliot's illumination of the experience many women have with men when it comes to relations like these. Tiresias, according to the Greek myth, turned into a woman for some years. It would make sense that he would understand the plight of the woman. Perhaps Eliot was trying to make a statement about the male treatment of women over the course of history, and how the treatment of some women in ancient Greek myths is not terribly different from the treatment of women in his lifetime. I think this speaks to the temporality of modernism, and how some things do not really change over such lengths of time. Instead, they are just spoken about and lived through in a more acceptable way for the time period, like a woman who knows what is expected of her by this man and merely submits to that reality. People don't seem to mind that as much as an ancient tale about an assault. I'd like to think Eliot could have been pointing to an idea like that.
On The Waste Land
Submitted by Abby Rush on Tue, 09/13/2022 - 16:08