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The Waste Land is a poem full of myth, allusion and imagery.

Eliot cited two books he used writing the poem. These are Jessie L. Westons From
Ritual to Romance (1920) and Sir James G. Frazers The Golden Bough: A Study in
Magic and Religion (1890).The title of the poem is drawn from the myth of "The
Fisher King" which tells of a kingdom becoming barren (waste) because of an injury
to the king. In order for the kingdom to become fertile again a number of tasks or
trials must be completed by a hero. This is the same theme that is prevalent in
much of the canon of great world literature, in particular Epic.

The poet was deeply influenced by these works and the ancient and primitive
myths and legends.
----The underlying myths that Eliot uses to provide a framework for "The Waste Land"
are those of the Fisher King and the Grail Quest. Both of these myths come to
Christian civilization through the ancient Gaelic tradition.
In the Fisher King stories, a journeyer comes to a barren land and discovers a
wounded king whose wound has caused the land to become sterile. In some cases,
the wounding of the king was sexual in nature. Because these ancient peoples
believed that the king and the land were united as one and that they reflected on
each other, it was necessary to heal the king in order to heal the land. The
journeyer then needs to undertake a quest (which fits the archetypal hero's journey
pattern) to heal the wounded king and, through him, the land. In the Grail legends,
which are frequently intertwined with the Fisher King legends, a questor searches
throughout the land for the Holy Grail, undergoing tests of purity, his character, and
his dedication to the quest on the way. The nature of the Grail differs from one
account to another: It is sometimes thought of as a cup which caught the blood of
Christ when he was pierced by a spear while hanging on the cross (which may be
derived from the Celtic legends describing the Grail as a cauldron of rebirth which
allowed resurrection to warriors killed in battle but did not allow them to speak of
the experience of rebirth -- a pattern into which the story of Lazarus roughly falls),
and it is sometimes thought to be a stone (in Eschenbach's Parsifal, the Grail is
described as a gem struck from the crown of Lucifer when he was ejected from

Perhaps the most important way that Eliot uses these underlying myths in "The
Waste Land" to comment on the modern world is to describe modern cultural
emptiness within the context of ancient myths of a heroic quest that gives meaning
and relevance to life. By doing so, Eliot points out the simple fact of this cultural
emptiness and its accompanying spiritual dryness and gives hints throughout the

poem of where an individual can search for remedies to it. "These fragments I have
shored against my ruins," writes Eliot in line 431. The entire poem can be seen as a
collection of "fragments" which provide hints in various ways, especially through the
many and diverse literary references that Eliot uses to suggest works that the
reader can examine to see how others have attempted their own heroic quests for
meaningful existence. Eliot uses the fragmentary descriptions of cultural emptiness
and many juxtapositions with descriptions of past cultural richness to point to what
he calls the "disassociation of sensibilities" -- the unhinging of the connection of
heart and mind in, for instance, modern science.
-----The myth of the Fisher King is considered to be the most abstract and enigmatic
among Arthurian legends. It can be interpreted within the framework of pagan
fertility rituals but the Fisher King was also thought of as a figure which stands for
Jesus Christ. There are many varieties of the myth, yet one motif remains
unchanged: the Fisher King is a king who suffers from a wound located usually in
the area of the groin, a leg or thigh that causes great pain. The Kings physical
sterility carries over his land which becomes a barren land. The myth was used by
T.S. Eliot as a framework for one of his most famous works The Waste Land where
the figure of the Fisher King symbolises the infertility of European culture. It is also a
metaphor for modern apathy and the symbol of social and moral decay. Since the
myth of the Fisher King is the key to understanding the poem I would like to
examine the way in which Eliot uses it in order to describe the state of European
culture at the beginning of 20th century. European culture is just like Fisher King:
infertile and unable to conceive. It cannot produce anything new. The theme of
sexuality reappears throughout the whole poem and all the characters are sexually
frustrated. On the other hand, the Fisher King can be also read as a symbol of Jesus
Christ (fish being the symbol of Christianity) and resurrection. But in the world of
Eliot, unlike in the myth, there is no way to heal the fisher King and restore fertility
to the land. The myth does not entirely fit in the modern world. This shows the lack
of one, coherent narrative in the modern world.
Modern society
The Waste Land, T. S. Eliots masterpiece, is a long, complex poem about the
psychological and cultural crisis that came with the loss of moral and cultural
identity after World War I.

The poem is deliberately obscure and fragmentary, incorporating variant voices, multiple points
of view, and abrupt shifts in dramatic context. The motif of moral degeneration, however, is
prevalent throughout the poem, the premise being that contemporary Europe, obsessed with
novelty, trends, materialism, and instant gratification, lacks the faith and substance to reaffirm its
cultural heritage, to reestablish the sense of order and stability that historical continuity once
provided. In an attempt to counter the cultural deficit of the present with the rich cultural heritage

of the past, Eliot combines images from pagan rituals and religious texts with ancient fertility
rituals and allusions to legends of the Grail. These images of ceremony and tradition are set
against bleak images of modern life, where spiritual death breeds cultural death, and the ashen
landscape reflects a barren world void of transcendental value.
Describing a series of failed encounters between various men and women, Eliot creates
composites of fertility archetypes who ironically are incapable of offering spiritual nourishment
to a dying world. The characters drift in and out of meaningless relationships; the men and
women are impotent, shallow, vain, excruciatingly ordinary. Culture is reduced to common
clichs; the well of redemption becomes a dull canal. The world is filled with a heap of
broken images where the dead tree gives no shelter. The only salvation appears to be in
personal responsibility, self-control, and a faith in cultural continuity based on common Western
European values.
------------For Eliot, though, there's just no question that modern society has
developed a depressing sort of cultural amnesia, and the decline of this society is
directly connected to the fact that people don't have a good enough understanding
of their cultural history.