As I stand still in the traffic filled New York City Street attempting to crawl as if I were a turtle trying to cross the road, I begin to contemplate the true beauty of living in the city. It is now the month where everything should be glooming, pleasing, and living, however it is not. In “the Waste Land” by Thomas Sterns Eliot, he states, “April is the cruellest month.” This is a metaphor which in my situation reflects the truth. There are many reasons as to why people prefer to live outside of the city but work in the heart of it.
I look forward and try to imagine what T.S. Eliot would think if he saw these city streets. In his book, “the Waste Land,” it is forced into our imagination that the world is dead; the earth is a waste land. He calls the city an “Unreal City,” making the reader think of the city that is referred to as a place worse than any nightmares can ever imagine. When imagining a city that I do not want to live in, first thing that comes to mind is a city that’s always dirty and cold. If one was to analyze New York City, it can easily be found that most of the time it is cold; cold enough to need someone there with you if you do not have a home. Just as in the book you would read in the first story that you can only be kept warm in the winter with someone next to you. It is written, “Winter kept us warm.” It is also dirty to the extent that the street cleaning trucks that are made to clean the streets cannot handle the amount of filth the ground holds.
The Waste Land takes on the degraded mess that Eliot considered modern culture to constitute, particularly after the First World War had ravaged Europe. April is the month that everything should be regenerating. Regeneration, though, is painful, for it brings back reminders of a more fertile and happier past. In the modern world, winter, the time of forgetfulness and numbness, is indeed preferable. Marie’s childhood recollections are also painful: the simple world of cousins, sledding, and coffee in the park has been replaced by a complex set of emotional and political consequences resulting from the war. The topic of memory, particularly when it involves remembering the dead, is of critical importance in The Waste Land. Memory creates a confrontation of the past with the present, a combination that points out just how badly things have decayed.
The final episode of the Waste Land allows Eliot to finally establish the true wasteland of the poem, the modern city. Eliot’s London references Baudelaire’s Paris (“Unreal City”), Dickens’s London (“the brown fog of a winter dawn”) and Dante’s hell (“the flowing crowd of the dead”). The city is desolate and depopulated, inhabited only by ghosts from the past. Stetson, the spirit of the speaker recognizes, is a fallen war comrade. The speaker pesters him with a series of ghoulish questions about a corpse buried in his garden: again, with the garden, we return to the theme of regeneration and fertility. This encounter can be read as a quest for a meaning behind the tremendous slaughter of the First World War; however, it can also be read as an exercise in ultimate futility: as we see in Stetson’s failure to respond to the speaker’s inquiries, the dead offer few answers. The great respective weights of history, tradition, and the poet’s dead predecessors combine to create an oppressive burden.
In conclusion, there are many reasons as to why people prefer to live outside of the city, yet work in the center of it. In the first episode of the Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, the city that is described is one that is regenerating because as it is beaten into your mind, the city is dead. Eliot speaks about the land and how dust filled it is and how nothing is alive. He then explains that everything is reviving, but that means that at the current time, after the First World War, everything is dead and life totally different then it was earlier. Even though he talks about the city and how “unreal” it is, he explains that Marie has recollections of sledding and family life. Usually family life and things like sledding are pastimes in a more countryside based area. Therefore, it is as if he is saying that city life is no longer good, while Marie remembers the good times she had sledding in the countryside.
In the last episode, we, the readers, can see even more about how Eliot perceives the city. He refers to other stories to explain this city. He uses Dante’s Hell as well as Dickens’s London to explain the dead streets and the ghost roaming them. He uses a fallen soldier as the main character and shows that the streets are full of ghost and no one living. If you would look at the city in the modern times, you can imagine people having nothing on their mind but work. They wander the city streets going nowhere but to their place of work, being worried of getting fired and not being human to the extent that they are forced to do something.
It is if they are roaming the streets just like the ghosts, however, these people don’t think that they are dead. Just like the saying goes, “I come alive on the weekends.” Then you can imagine that the soldiers that did return breathing would want to live in a place where it is peaceful and quiet. The countryside is where they would most likely find this. Therefore, it can be seen that the ghost or the workers work in the city, while the living stay home in the countryside.
Courtney from Study Moose
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