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Gothic Elements in T.S. Eliot’s Postmodern Classic “The Waste Land”
Introduction T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” is a dark and gloomy view of a zombified modern experience. In accordance with the tenets of representing the fear seen in postmodernism, Eliot uses Gothic images to show the bleakness of the modern world in all of its terror. Thus, “The Waste Land” utilizes Gothic imagery and structures as a way to represent the modern fear of the unknown. Sahar Hashbal
Postmodern Gothic Postmodernism took Gothic elements and twisted them to fit a more modern context. First and foremost, postmodernism adapted Gothic principles of fear and haunting terror as a way to represent the fear of modern life. Thus, research shows that “its central intelligence is in its appropriation of the Gothic mode to try to represent the violence and terror of postmodernity” Asma AlQunisi
Postmodern Gothic Post-modernism embodies a tone of the external world being unrecognizable, and thus invoking fear within its concepts. It shares the idea of Gothic literature portraying the terror of unknown monsters and demons, but it is the modernity itself which has become the demonized unknown within the context of postmodernism. There is terror in not knowing the modern world. It is un-representable, and therefore terrifying to the modern citizens. “indicating that the faculties of reason and imagination are irreconcilable,” Afnan Alshabwi
Postmodern Gothic Postmodernism with “its Gothic undertones and nuances serve to intensify this preoccupation with the unspeakable and therefore unimaginable terrors of postmodernity,” Thus, postmodernism most often invoked images of extreme fear and terror not with vampires or witches, but of the monsters we have ourselves created within the context of our civilized and industrialized lives. Modernity has moved us further away from the original human condition, thus alienating us. Research states that such implementations of Gothic elements are “Moving forward from subsequent struggles with subjectivity and scientific rationality, postmodernist literature intensified the situation to the extremity of negation,”. Postmodernism utilizes the phobias stirred from the use of Gothic elements as a way to solidify more modern fears. Hanan Altamimi
Gothic Elements in The Waste Land There are several gothic elements which have an important dimension in “The Waste Land,” one of which being the image of death. The concept of death in Eliot’s masterpiece brings significance in its symbolic nature, not necessarily purely physical. Eliot presented a spiritual and emotional death, rather than purely emphasizing the physicality of the experience. Thus, there are dead men walking. Those within the cities have died a “symbolic death,” refusing to move on towards an area of more spiritual significance. They are spiritually and emotional dead. yet remain in their physical form which embodies the postmodernist attitude of how modernity has killed humanity’s emotive and spiritual selves. Eliot presents a world where “Where the dead men lost their bones,” (Eliot 115). They have died in a much more spiritually significant manner. Sahar Hashbal
Gothic Elements in The Waste Land Moreover, there is the element of haunting that is common within Gothic literature and is replayed in Eliot’s image of the world’s Metropolis death. Haunting plays an important role within postmodernism and Eliot’s work “The Waste Land.” He shows the dead men walking as haunting the earth. Research suggests that “The terror of the Gothic therefore […] functions as a deconstructive counter-narrative which presents the darker side of subjectivity, the ghosts of otherness that haunt our fragile selves,”. Eliot makes this image very clear. Empty bodies now haunt overcrowded cities in the modern metropolitan experience; “He who was living is now dead/ We who were living are now dying/ With a little patience,” (Eliot 327-330). Asma AlQunisi
Gothic Elements in The Waste Land There are also elements of Gothic psychoanalytical tenets, including the Gothic illusion of the self. Many “Gothic novels provided a characteristic analysis of the human body, where its disintegration allows for a positive inquiry into the human psyche,” (Bak 51). Here, postmodern implementations of Gothic tenets do not always provide us the answers we seek, which only increases the level of fear within such structures. We are also unrecognizable and “the ghostly voices that speak to us from unknown places, have no unified concept of self or reality,”. Therefore, there is an illusion of the self. We will never know ourselves, and yet there is the unending quest to do so which further distances ourselves from the humanity we once knew. Afnan Alshabwi
The Structure of The Waste Land The structure of the poem itself also helps portray Gothic imagery. There is “Gothic imaginary at work on a number of different levels supporting the theme of terror and linguistic frustration. The introduction is in Latin and Greek, which anchors the gothic themes of the past that is so far removed from us. From there, Eliot consistently writes in fragmented words and phrases which then represent the fragmented lives being lived within the context of modernity. Thus, “the nightmare of fragmentation will persistently haunt the ego as a recollection of its fictionality,”. This creates a chaotic reader experience seen in “A heap of broken images,” (Eliot 22). Hanan Altamimi
The Structure of The Waste Land Yet, still Eliot shows humanity as trying to understand ourselves, although failing to embark on the rebirth that would save our wondering souls. There is a struggle to make sense of the modern world to alleviate the stress of being unrecognizable. Yet, the unity we seek is a paradox. We are looking for a rebirth through the death of their physical bodies (Rai 80). Yet, the idea of rebirth invokes great pain and effort; “April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain,” (Eliot 1-4). Because rebirth is so painful, many in the waste land continue to remain spiritually dead, refusing to move on towards a greater understanding. Sahar Hashbal
Thank You SaharHashbal AsmaAlQunisi AfnanAlShabwi HananAlTamimi
four Examples of the Gothic images in the Waste Land 1- I will show you fear in handful of dust ''in handful of dust'', is a fearful image that he will show the reader that his life worth nothing. It may also remind them of their end. 2- ''The silence'' is horrific. They wish to hear a sound to pacify and console him. Loneliness and isolation are not the romantic any more. 3-The dweller of the waste land is not a dweller who enjoy a sense of exile. 4 - (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!) This is an image of ugliness and horror. It is horrific image of white ball of the eye that is shining like the pearl in the bottom of the water. ''Look'' is an invitation to see the actual death, destruction and alienation of the person. Nothing remains of him but a blank look in the eyes. It is a fearful ugly horrific picture.