The Waste Land

The Centrality of Tiresias in The Waste Land 12th Grade

T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land presents a multitude of fragmented depictions of character, voice and dialogue, which combine to create the overall sense of disorientation within the poem. Despite this pervading lack of stability, the poem continues to succeed as a united whole; from some source in the text, a growing sense of unification and constancy develops. Arguably, Tiresias is this source: his position in the poem is not that of 'mere spectator', but a disconnection that assigns him almost omniscient authority, rising above the other voices with a tone of certainty, and thus providing a balance to the otherwise dislocated atmosphere.

On a superficial level it could be viewed that Tiresias as a figure in The Waste Land is undercut by his limited appearance in the sequence of poems, the first view the reader is given of the prophet being in the middle of ‘The Fire Sermon’. Yet Eliot’s placement of Tiresias at almost the exact half way point is revealing of his value: structurally, Tiresias appears to be a transitional and bridging figure, perhaps representative of a turning point in thought for Eliot and, as in a five-act tragedy, and his brief appearance could thus highlight Tiresias as a pivotal character. Most prominently,...

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