Theme of salvation in The Waste Land

Question: Discuss the theme of salvation in “The Waste Land”. Or, is Eliot a religious poet? Discuss with reference to “The Waste Land”. Or, Theme of salvation in The Waste Land       


The acclaimed poem of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) “The waste Land” focuses on the crime, sins, and destruction of morality, and at the same time, he has prescribed how neoteric waste civilization can get salvation. He may be considered a protector of moral imagination in his treatment of the main theme of the poem.

Context of legendary and mythical wastelands

Eliot clearly indicates that modern civilization is absolutely doomed. Because in the poem we find references to the wastelands of Fisher King, King Oedipus, and the wasteland of the Bible. The Fisher King‘s troops raped the nuns of the Chapel Perilous to contain the Holy Grail. For this reason, the King became impotent and his land suffered from famine. The King hoped that one day a knight would go to the Chapel Perilous and his sin would be washed. Eliot uses it symbolically in The Waste Land (1922).

Click here: For all notes of poetry

Context of the neoteric wasteland

The modern world has become a wasteland due to sundry reasons such as sins of sex, the fire of lust and hatred and evils of material civilization, and lack of faith and devotion. The modern waste landers are spiritually dead.

“Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.”

The people of the neoteric world become warm in winter which starkly proves that they are spiritually dead and buried.

Prescription for salvation

Eliot mentions a way of their spiritual regeneration by referring to an event in ancient Indian history. When India passed through great crisis drought and famine, people were compelled to pray to God for divine help. God spoke to them in thunder and uttered Da Da Da indicating to them the three-fold way of spiritual salvation.

Surrender and dedication

The first ‘Da’ is Datta which means giving. It means surrendering to spiritual life or surrendering to a higher purpose. It is the only sacrifice for some noble purpose so that humanity can thrive. However, those who martyr themselves for some noble purpose are not often remembered by the mementos. Though such martyrs may not get earthly name and fame or wealth and prosperity, it is only such dedication that can cause spiritual rebirth.

The bond between individual and society

The second Da is dayadhvam which means to sympathize. It is an emotional bond of union between individuals or between the individual and society. Sympathy means going over to others or spiritual harmony with others and this essential for spiritual salvation. Modern humanity is self-centered. They live within a limited world that is completely isolated. So, we need to turn the key and get out of self-symbolizing prison and realize our oneness with others.

Order in life

The third Da is damyata meaning “self-control” and discipline. Discipline does not mean loss of freedom rather it makes the journey of life easier and smoother. Spiritual disciplines imply control over sensuous desires; then life becomes a gay adventure. Thus, one can achieve spiritual salvation by controlling one’s passions and desires. Thus, in the last passage, the poet says to the spiritual dead humanity how to achieve spiritual salvation.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih.


Thus, Eliot gives his own personal impression. His prescription of the three remedies may seem like the cry of a madman but this is the only way of gaining spiritual peace and bliss. The poet believes that man’s salvation is possible if each person looks after his own self-purification. Thus, Eliot has proved his theme of salvation in The Waste Land.


SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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