As the old Norton Anthology of English Literature stated, The Waste Land appears to be about spiritual dryness, about the inability of individuals and nations to hold on to beliefs that provide meaning for their lives and vitality for growth and creativity. It seems to reflect the ultimate boredom of meaninglessness. This analysis explores the theme of boredom in The Waste Land.
This poem was written during the postWorld War I period and before the preparations for World War II began in earnest. It represents the reactive mode of people who participated in a war that was widely seen as calling for the meaningless sacrifice of millions of men. Men entered the battle with great enthusiasm, only to spend months fighting back and forth over small areas of muddy ground. This is the war of trench warfare, mud, Flanders Field, and the death of idealism.
What, then, were people left with in terms of belief systems? According to Eliot's poem, there is very little that is left to them. The land is dry and desolate, unlikely to give forth much life. It needs to be regenerated.
It is also important to recognize that this poem is not read in its initial form. Eliot started with a much longer work, which was edited by Ezra Pound to its present size. Eliot indicated that Pound's editing was helpful to him at that time, and that he cut whole sections from the poem, including a long section about a shipwreck and section that imitated the Rape of the Lock. Eliot indicated that it had also not been his intention to express the disillusionment of a generation, even though the critics read his poem that way. He was primarily interested in sound and language (Hall, 1963).
Eliot also indicated that The Waste Land was a more complicated work than much of his later material, mostly because he lacked experience and facility with the language in the older poem. He noted that he thought that he had more to say in The Waste Land than h...