Universal Human Laws in The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot)


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Functionalism explains human society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions, and institutions.  
A functionalist reading of myths might extract the universal human laws.
This presentation attempts to identify some Universal Human Laws in T.S. Eliot's modern epic 'The Waste Land'

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Universal Human Laws in The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot)

  1. 1. Universal Human Laws in The Waste Land Dilip Barad Dept. of English, M.K. Bhavnagar University Gujarat - India www.dilipbarad.com
  2. 2. Introduction • Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Or are they just entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? • http://conorneill.com/2012/12/01/review-coursera-greek-roman-mythology/ • http://conorneill.com/2012/12/02/universal-human-laws/
  3. 3. Functionalism • Functionalism explains human society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions, and institutions. • A functionalist reading of myths might extract the universal human laws.
  4. 4. • The Waste Land not only makes extensive use of myths but also makes, a myth – the myth of the hollowness of Human Beings in Modern Times. • The rituals of the modern men are mythified – which in turn attempts to legitimize it. • Or rather it would be better to say: the rituals (sexual perversions) are illegitimized in epic which is heavily drawn as modern day myth – the myth of decay, desolation and degeneration of human values, civilizations and cultures. • As the poem operates in a dismantling way, rather than legitimizing, it illegitimizes the rituals of the Modern Times. . . Or the sexual perversion is sinned and thus it is legitimized to see sex as sin.
  5. 5. Apart from legitimization of sexual sins for spiritual degradation and vice versa, the Functionalist reading of The Waste Land may give us many more Universal Human Laws • Here is the list of the Universal Human Laws:
  6. 6. UHL-1 • Nostalgia is the most powerful force in the universe • Memory and desire • Tiresias is nostalgic – Stetson, divan . . . • When there is memory of something lost with deep urge to go back to it, is called nostalgia • That memory has turned into dull roots and there is deep craving to revitalize it. • Rain gives us the feeling of satisfaction as it gives us illusive assurance of the revitalization of dead past/memory.
  7. 7. UHL-2 • The decayed condition of the civilization and a culture of living dead • Epigraph - Sibyl
  8. 8. UHL-3 • Past and future clash with each as-yet- unformed and just-beginning present • In decaying culture, where people are caught in an abandoned present between a past whose meaning is lost and a future that offers no hope, superstition trumps faith and anxiety accompanies every action • “withered stump”
  9. 9. UHL-4 • The oppressed with a sense of not being free, consequently, withdraws from the world of experience to the world of contemplation • Marie in the mountains • In the mountains, there you feel free . . . Reading much of the night, and going south in winter.
  10. 10. UHL-5 • It is the eternal ‘present’ of the human condition: ‘fear in the handful of dust’. • The spirit that animates handful of dust, in the present, is a decaying and sickened one.
  11. 11. UHL-6 • Fatal love and inevitable death • Love mixed with death and rebirth
  12. 12. UHL-7 • The temporal disorientation confounds the idea that there is material progress through history and reinforces the emptiness of experience that is at the heart of the poem. • Although time has progressed, human behaviour and the human experience remains fixed. • Oneness of experience of all wars and characters. • Battle of Maylae is juxtaposed with WW-1
  13. 13. UHL-8 • The brute within the human is the obstacle to both death and resurrection (return to life). • The dog that’s friend to men – digs up the corpse and insures the continuation of barrenness.
  14. 14. UHL-9 • Voyeurism and the repression of the desire to look • Shame and ostentation (vulgar show of wealth) are mixed as are sensual impulse and chaste avoidance of power of sensuality • A cupid peeped out from behind the vines and ‘another hid his eyes behind his wings’.
  15. 15. UHL-10 • Our lives are depleted and we are on the verge of shipwreck. But we are not really shipwreck. • The barrenness of the world, the impotence of its creatures is an illusory reality. • It is caused by an obstruction of vision, which is the result of passionate attachment to desire. • By recurring allusion of ‘The Tempest’, Eliot turns the play into a metaphor for the condition described in The Waste Land • ‘Those are pearls, that were his eyes’. • Drowned Phoenician sailor • Death by water • The third hooded one who walks beside . . .
  16. 16. UHL-11 • The perverse fertility out of which nothing grows but rot. • Fire sermon – first paragraph • River’s tent is broken, last fingers of leaf, clutch and sink into the wet bank. • Riverside ought to be fertile area, yet the nature of its fertility betrays the possibility of renewal.
  17. 17. UHL-12 • Death itself is the agency for bringing forth the recognition of the sacredness of life which may not be wasted in the barren landscape and the meaningless pursuits described in the poem. • Death by water: is a reminder of death and the fulfilment • Death-in-life and life-in-death (Cleanth Brooks)
  18. 18. UHL-13 • Death of God • The crucifixion represents the mythological slaughter of God. (torchlight red sweaty faces, frosty silences in the garden) • If the culture is not meaningfully attuned to the values of the Christian sacrifice, whose customs and ceremonies are corrupt, the ritual of resurrection that concludes the death of god does not occur. • Thus, this death renders both human life and human death meaningless.
  19. 19. UHL-14 • The cause of the barrenness of the waste land is NOT the god’s actual absence but mankind’s inability to recognize him even when he is present. • Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking beside you
  20. 20. UHL-15 • Knowledge of what is needed is not the same as attaining what is necessary (require). • Datta – Give (God) • Dayadhvam – compassion (humans) • Damyata – self-control (Demons) • Our needs are limited but what we require is endless. • Nature has everything to satisfy the needs of humans, but nothing to satisy, its greed. (MK Gandhi)
  21. 21. UHL - 16 • Purgation of sin through refiner’s fire is a precondition for emerging from the condition of death-in-life. • The condition of death-in-life is the sate of sin. • Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina • (Dante’s Purgatoria: a character suffering in the cleansing fire of the Purgatorio ‘Please remember my pains – it is only through suffereing that regeneration can take place)
  22. 22. Which of the above given UHLs did you find more interesting? Give you choice/s here: http://goo.gl/forms/9WjUPuK3oE
  23. 23. Reference/Acknowledgement • Major Source: Bloom’s Guides: The Waste Land. 2007 (Summary and Analysis) • http://www.jetotak.sk/uploads/tx_tmarticle/soul_ma_astronomy.jpg (Title Image) • http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Petronius-eyes-Meetville-Quotes- 141295.jpg (Sibyl quote image) • http://littlevillageboutique.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/product_full/Birds %20of%20freedom%20with%20boy-500x425.jpg (Freedom Image) • Handful of Dust: HurtLocker Poster • Tristan and Isolde (http://www.angelfire.com/me2/legends/Artpage2.html)