Disorder and decay The Waste Land

Question: Discuss how T. S. Eliot reflects the disorder and decay of modern civilization. Or, Disorder and decay The Waste Land


T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) is a distinguished figure as a war poet who has been able to paint a realistic picture of the crisis period known as the “Age of Worry”. Although he created the great work “The Waste Land” in 1922, he could predict what would happen in the near future. Eliot has illustrated the disorder and decay of modern civilization in the poem The Waste Land that is one of the baffling pictures of modern society.

The term disorder and decay

Undoubtedly, “The Waste Land” is full of diagnoses of malady in our time. The disorder and decay of modern civilization are due to various reasons which Eliot mentions in this poem centering on the confusing problems of modern society.

Sexual Perversion

According to Eliot, sex is an important part of life. It is an outward manifestation of the means of love and procreation but now sexuality has been distorted from its proper function and is used as a source of decay and disease. It erodes moral values ​​and hinders human spiritual progress. Easy sex is found in all classes of society. Eliot quotes the example of the German princess in the first part of the poem. This parallels Queen Elizabeth’s love affair with the Earl of Leicester during the Tudor period.

There is another instance of sexual freedom in high society. Eliot mentions this in the career of the lady of the situation. In the second part of the poem, sexual distortion exists among the lower classes of society. Eliot mentions the story of Lil and the experience of the three daughters of the Thames. Another illustration is the mechanical sexual relationship between a typist girl and her boyfriend. In the poem, the paradigm of homosexual relationships is painted through the character of Mr. Eugenides. Eliot sums up the story of European lust in the words of St. Augustine:

“To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning”.

Lack of human relationships

In the old days, people believed in close human relationships and hospitality. There was a joint family arrangement. Today there is the fashion of nuclear family and old age home. In ancient times, there was a certain loyalty to the community and to the nation. Such loyalty no longer exists. People have become self-centered and arrogant. There is no feeling of sympathy and affection towards the community. Everyone thinks about their own interests and how they can benefit at the expense of others. Exploitation is the order of the day. So we have lost the key to human empathy and fraternity:

“We think of the key, each in his prison

Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison”

Loss of Faith and Moral Values

Faith was the source of inspiration for life and achievement in ancient times. People really believed in Christian values. Tradition increases the importance of moral conduct. The elders were respected. Character and piety were considered important assets. Moreover, character and achievement were more important than money and position. Values ​​have changed today. Money is the god to modern people. Older people are hated. Christians go to church as a routine. There is a gulf between profession and practice. Hypocrisy has been a premium. Flattery is more important than merit. The result is that Christian faith and compassion are no longer considered to be important things in life. This leads to a general deterioration in standard life and reputation standards:

“And upside down in air were towers

Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours

And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells”.

Psychological stress

Modern psychologists have shown that the majority of neoteric people are abnormal. They suffer from various mental illnesses. When a person cannot face a challenging situation, he feels excitement and frustration. Similarly, sex has become a source of anxiety and disappointment. The ultimate mental excitement of modern man is expressed by the following lines:

“I think we are in rat’s alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.”

Malfunction in politics and war

An important factor in the breakdown of modern civilization is the enormous power wielded by politicians. They have the power to fight against other countries without consulting their own people. Through their own actions, they can bring unceasing suffering to their countrymen. Millions of people were indirectly affected by the war. They had to wander as refugees in search of food and shelter. Both plains and mountains are full of their mourning:

“What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

Over endless plains……..”


Undoubtedly, Eliot has given a very clear picture of the spiritual chaos of European society after the First World War but it must be noted that the decay of civilization is a part of history. But being immersed in destruction and decay cannot be a historical sign. So modern society and civilization can be glorified by solving the above problems.

Click Here: For more notes of the poem The Waste Land


SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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