The Waste Land

Womanhood in Wartime's Wasteland College

He’ll want to know what you done with the money he gave you

To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.

You have them all out Lil, and get a nice set,

He said, I swear, I can’t bare to look at you.

And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,

He’s been in the army for four years, he wants a good time,

And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.

Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.

Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME. (T S Eliot, The Waste Land, 38-39)

These lines from Eliot break several stereotypes many artists and authors use to represent women in WWI. Specifically, Eliot does not buy into woman’s sexual unfaithfulness, cosmopolitan lifestyle, or their wildness the way that some war authors do, and in fact often directly contradicts these ideals. In the above passage, men find themselves portrayed as the unfaithful ones in relationships, who leave their wives when they find themselves dissatisfied sexually or even with their wife’s appearance. Interestingly, this way of portraying men appears quite different from most descriptions of WWI relationships. Many authors often portray women as the unfaithful ones in this time...

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