I've had to read this particular text several times in my English and Literature career but this has been the first time I've personally been asked to attack the reading myself.
What struck me most about the poem is the intial big picture stance that Eliot makes at the very beginning. He opens with an all-encompassing thematic map for the reader; like an grand intro that shows the reader what path he's about to embark on.
April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
We open with juxtapositions of our preconceived notions. April, the month of spring and renewal. Yet Eliot proclaims thaht it's the cruelest month, bringing lilacs from the dead revitilizing old memories and desires. Eliot then describes winter as warm, "covering Earth in a forgetful snow".
Eliot uses the reversal of our cultural connotations of the seasons to bring his metaphor of memories as painful to light. This is a specifically postmodern perspective; the ironic retrospect through which nostalgia is criticized. Eliot illustrates the agony of over-romantisized nostagia and specifically how it's blanketed by 'forgetful snow.' These contradictions also highlight the seemingly paradoxical values that are at the base of our basic existential struggle as humans.