The most difficult to describe of the poem's characters, he assumes many different shapes and guises. At times the Narrator seems to be Eliot himself; at other times he stands in for all humanity. In "The Fire Sermon" he is at one point the Fisher King of the Grail legend, at another the blind prophet Tiresias. When he seems to reflect Eliot, the extent to which his ruminations are autobiographical is ambiguous.
A famous clairvoyant referred to in Aldous Huxley's novel Crome Yellow and borrowed by Eliot for the Tarot card episode. She suffers from a bad cold, but is nonetheless "known to be the wisest woman in Europe, / With a wicked pack of cards."
A friend of the Narrator's, who fought in the war with him. Which war? It is unclear. Perhaps the Punic War or World War I, or both, or neither.
The Rich Lady
Never referred to by name, she sits in the resplendent drawing room of "A Game of Chess." She seems to be surrounded by luxury, but unable to appreciate or enjoy it. She might allude to Eliot's wife Vivienne.
A character from Ovid's Metamorphoses. She was raped by Tereus, then, after taking her vengeance with her sister, morphed into a nightingale.
Lonely, a creature of the modern world. She is visited by a "young man carbuncular," who sleeps with her. She is left alone again, accompanied by just her mirror and a gramophone.
A merchant from Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey). Probably the one-eyed merchant to whom Madame Sosostris refers.
A Phoenician merchant who is described lying dead in the water in "Death by Water." Perhaps the same drowned Phoenician sailor to whom Madame Sosostris refers.
The Waste Land Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Waste Land is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
In the second stanza, Eliot describes a land of “stony rubbish” – arid, sterile, devoid of life, quite simply the “waste land” of the poem’s title. Eliot quotes Ezekiel 2.1 and Ecclesiastes 12.5, using biblical language to construct a sort of...