Depressing Themes in "The Waste Land"

Unlike several of my classmates, this is the first time I have ever read "The Waste Land".  It took several read throughs to even try and make sense of it, but the depressing and pessimistic, even morbid, vibes coming from the poem stood out to me right away.  Right off the bat, Eliot mentions April, a month in the season of life and color, yet refers to it as "the cruellest of months".  The lilacs blooming and dead land giving way to the green of nature is something  he views as less than desirable compared to the covering snow of winter.

Eliot uses descriptions of "stony rubbish" and dead ground to continue in the depressing descriptions.  He goes on to talk about the clairvoyant woman, Madame Sosostris, who warns him to "fear death by water".   Near the end of the first section, he speaks of a crowd of people in London, whom "death had undone", which I can only assume means zombies.  To end section one, he sees a friend in the crowd of zombies and asks about the corps he buried in his yard.  

This poem goes in so many directions at once yet the theme of death and misery seems to pervade many of the encounters that Eliot writes about, which is very fitting since the title of the section is The Burial of the Dead.  Even the few happy moments in the sections, such as the girl with the hyacinths, end on a dismal note.  This could be Eliot showing a pessimistic view on life as a whole, how even the happy moments can end in confusion and disaster.  

Comments

I don't think he is necessarily being pessimistic about life in general, but he definitley is about the aftermath of war. Which makes sense because even after the war is over, it's not just gone. Even the happy experiences are tainted with thoughts of dead loved ones, or how terrible that time was during the war. I think the depressing mood drives his point home, and achieves a small part of what the actual tone is of a country at war.