Modern Literature

According to Rahn (1), the modern literature period was the timeline from 1900 to 1950 which was marked by sudden and unexpected break from traditional norms. He points out that the period which was characterized by the world greatest wars, World War I and II, changed the content of the literature material by displaying a relative strong sense of cohesion. He also notes that most of the literature writers who adopted the concept of modernism in their work used the stylistic innovations which challenged the audience by preconceived notions of traditional values and orders. With the insurgence of Victorian culture which prevailed in the nineteenth century, the modernist intellectuals and artists believed in using their literature in creating sense of individualism (Rahn 1). This would enable people to change their ways of approaching the world.

Rahn (1) notes that the nineteenth century was characterized by male dominance over women and other minority groups in the society. He points out that women were marginalized to an extent of being voiceless and inconsequential in the society’s decision making processes. According to him, the modern writers had to incorporate innovative literature styles that not only educated on the impact of discrimination based on sex and race, but also created equitable society that was defragmented by class distinctions. He points out that imagist poetry became the dominating scene of their literature during the Fist World War which was against the Victorian and Romantic poetry. He notes that with its minimal language use, lesser structural rules and directness, imagist poetry created a sense of seriousness in concentrating on the subject matter. For instance, the imagist poetry dramatized on the plight of the women primarily known as women liberation thereby leading to the Harlem Renaissance (Rahn 1).

According to Rahn (1), the modernist poets such as T.S Eliot and Louise Bogan carried on with the work of imagist poets by deploying modern style of literature production. He notes that Eliot and Bogan incorporated conversational and easy styles in their poems that discusses on individual alienation. It was attributed by both sexual and racial discriminations among other factors. The write up in discussing the period of modern literature will analyze one poem of the period by T.S Eliot. It will examine its meaning, its author and how the poem fits the modern period. Moreover, it will discuss the work’s literary reception.

Thomas Stearns Eliot

According to Kanth (1), Thomas Stearns Eliot who was born in 26th September, 1888 and died on 4th January, 1965 was one of the most significant poets in the modern period. He points out that Eliot who was the son of  Charlotte Champe Stearns and Henry Ware Eliot studied at Milton Academy where he later enrolled and graduated from prestigious Harvard and Oxford Universities. Being a keen student of philosophy, Eliot developed more exceptional interest in Hindu and Indian Philosophy. But as he points out, 1908 was the career turning point for Eliot when he was inspired by the Arthur Symon’s literature work, “The Study of Symbolist Movement in Literature,” and began writing his revolutionized poetry.

Kanth (1) notes that, on returning from Paris in 1911 where he went to study French language, Eliot became one of the literature figures of the period from which he produced various poems. However, he points out that despite the fact that Eliot was able to flourish in his professional life as a poet, he dropped his American citizenship and became British nationalist where he converted to Anglicanism. He notes that Eliot depicted his relationship life and his skepticism towards religious beliefs in his poems which mostly touched on his relationship with his ex-wife Vivienne and divinity. According to him, the fragmented structural composition of Eliot’s poems primarily highlighted the breakdown of humanity. He notes that the layering of poetry meanings and contrasting structural styles that envisaged Eliot poems pioneered the current use of ironic and metamorphic modes in poetry that do not give the direct meaning of the themed subject.

“The Waste Land,” Poem by Thomas Stearns Eliot

According to Brooks (1), “The Waste Land,”poem by T.S Eliot runs for 430 lines which are aesthetically divided into five sections. He notes that, the poem is structured in a manner that signified a varied perspective that does not give a central meaning to the subject being discussed. He notes that the onset of the poem from the first stanza presents a structurally fragmented language use that not only requires effective interpretation of juxtaposed, but appropriate reconciliation of viewed points in determining the meaning. For instance, the first seven lines in the first stanza themed, “The Burial of the Dead,” gives ordered rhymed lines that conform to the general structural format of poems. However, he points out that the sudden use of German words, “Starnbergersee,” and “Hofgarten,” in lines 8 and 9 respectively in stanza 1, deforms the poem’s rhyme flow thereby readjusting the reader’s own concept about the poem. He notes that the reader is further subjected into confusion before determining the author’s meaning especially with the inclusion of, “Bin gar keine Russin…,” phrase in line 12 of stanza 1. He points out that Eliot wanted to illustrate that human beings inhibit distinct uniqueness and identities that primarily dictated their disagreement and non-unification.

Brooks (1) points out that the poem presented a notion of unstable establishment of absoluteness especially by incorporating the conversational format. He notes that the use of the word “And ..,”at the beginning of lines 10 and 11 with its discontinuous use in line 12 but reused in line 13 created a conversational format that did not give out a direct meaning. As he points out, the first eighteen lines of the first stanza of Eliot’s poem make it difficult for the reader to draw apparent conclusion of who is talking and what is being discussed. He notes that Eliot through his poem, “The Waste Land,” wanted to illustrate that individualism is permanently enriched in a person that actuality presented his or her unique identity. According to him, the disjointed conversation presented in the poem illustrates on the human conflict that arises due to the uniqueness of personality in creating a unifying environment.

On the other hand, Brooks (1) points out that the deployment of style and language fragments in Eliot’s poems signifies his presumed notion of articulating his modernist ideas. He notes that Eliot did not only use fragments to hide the lines of conversing speakers, but also to enhance the importance of being knowledgeable. By the reader trying to understand and single out the use of fragments in identifying the deeper meaning of the poem, he develops and expands his wisdom in analyzing the content of the poem thereby expanding his knowledge (Morledge, 1). For instance, he points out that from line 307, “To Carthage then I came,” to line 311, “O Lord Though pluckest,” presents a notion of religious confession and sermons. He notes that by joining the lines together, the reader not only identifies the deeper meaning of the stanza, but he also gains historical wisdom that is envisaged on the truth presented.

How the Poem Fit the Modern Period

According to Trapp (2), Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land,” best captured the modern period. He points out that the use of fragmented free verse with complex but contradictory styles created a sense of individualism among the people who had to reform from the world deadliest war. He notes that, by incorporating corruption of language in the poem, it presented a medley of voices that weakened the human masses in building coherence among them which in turn led to the world wars. He notes that the confusion of voices as depicted in the poem did not only signified the disorientation of the modern world but rather noted the nature of overcrowded revolutionized society.

Moreover, Morledge (1) points out that Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” best fitted the modern period that was restructuring from wars that had disrupted their mode of communication. For instance, in the section “A Game of Chess” Eliot illustrates the importance of communication especially in line 110 where he writes, “Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak”. He notes that the poem depicts the period of modernity as being characterized by popular audience and publicity that advocated for democratization and liberation. He points out that this was evident by the beginning of Harlem Renaissance which advocated against racial and sexism discrimination.


The write up has highlighted the “The Waste Land” poem by Eliot as a significant piece literature that illustrates the importance of effectively enhanced professionalism. It has noted that, Eliot was able to effectively use his professionalism in creating literature work that did not only advocate for the need for individualism in the society, but also expanded people’s knowledge.  The paper has pointed out the need for literature writers and artist to deploy structural styles in their work. Such styles do not bring out direct meaning of the subject but rather create high interpretational skills. Moreover, it has noted the need for literature artists and writers to use their work in changing the attitude of people towards their surrounding thereby instilling cohesion among themselves.

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