A Fragmented Poetic Consciousness in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Gwenda Koo


With its multiple voices and perspectives, shifting pronouns, personal and historical memories, The Waste Land presents the fragmented consciousness of the alienated human mind after the horrors of the First World War. In an attempt to express life, the poem is a portrayal of an internal world that presents neither a coherent nor unified subjectivity; instead, it illustrates a consciousness that takes on distinctive forms, but still remains in continuous flux. The Waste Land throws the most relevant light on Eliot’s own theory of subjectivity and the perception of reality: that the world only becomes real through the multiple, distinctive and seemingly disjointed perspectives of the individual consciousness. By creating a poetic consciousness, Eliot, like other modernist writers, strives to capture the essence of life: the continuous flux of fragments that point to a common unconscious desire for death. This paper explores the poet’s vision of a post-war human consciousness: its fragmented nature, burden of existence, and search for salvation.


T. S. Eliot; human consciousness; reality; unconscious; salvation

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