The Waste Land Struggle

I am usually the first person to say that I do not really care for poetry, and I can say that reading and attempting to understand The Waste Land did not change that at all. At the end of reading this, I thought I had finally come to the realization that this was about World War II. Which was great... until I realized that this was written before World War II had even begun, which I thought ruined my entire understanding of the work; however, I actually think it makes it stronger. Eliot knew that war is cyclical and will happen again, which he predicted correctly because World War II did happen about 17 years after The Waste Land was written, which gives this work more credibility.

Throughout the poem, Eliot warns that war and violence is a cyclical event (e.g. the pearl eyes of the drowned Phoenician Sailor). The last six lines of section one, specifically, is a warning against letting war happen again and the part you play in it. "Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!" The dogs of war are 'friends to men' because men (read: people) have a tendency towards violence and war, so we must be careful and dilligent in keeping that tendency buried and not let it be dug up again. I like that it kind of brought the reader into it and made them, us, responsible for keeping the peace too.

Comments

I liked this perspective on Burial of the Dead. I saw the connection between the corpse buried in the garden and war, but I really like the connection to the dogs of war. Just as April digs up the cold earth after all has been at peace for winter, the dogs of war dig up old issues to make humanity fight for them all over again -- almost like zombies.

Some interesting points about war here, Megan. However, I'd like you to push further in justifying claims you make by analyzing the quotations you insert. For instance, you say the final six lines of section one warn against letting war happen again, citing the line which reads, "Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!" You make an interesting assertion about the "dogs of war," but it's kind of a leap. Do more analysis to say how you get there? It would probably help to flesh out the scene a little more. What exactly is the dog digging up, and how might it apply to your interpretation here?

I tend not to care for poetry either, but I make exceptions for works like The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There's a certain raw quality to them that encourages reactions that are are visceral as they are varied from readers. I personally didn't relate The Waste Land to the great wars, but from others' comments I can see that World War I at the least appears to be a common association people make with it.