The Waste Land

The Waste Land Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Choose a single stanza of "The Waste Land" and analyze it. Consider meter, rhyme, ellipsis, imagery, allusion, and other poetic tropes.

  2. 2

    Why is April "the cruellest month"?

  3. 3

    Some critics have interpreted "The Waste Land" as a treatise on modern civilization, while others have argued that it is far more personal - an attempt on Eliot's part to grapple with his failing marriage. Trace the relationship between the personal and the universal in the poem, particularly in the opening section.

  4. 4

    The narrator is constantly in flux in "The Waste Land." Outline the various roles and personas the narrator assumes, and consider the significance of each.

  5. 5

    Why does Eliot refer to "Mylae" on line 70, instead of World War I? What does the substitution of an ancient war for a modern one mean? Consider the role of history in "The Waste Land," and Eliot's fluid conception of time.

  6. 6

    Analyze the water imagery of "The Waste Land," from the summer rain in the beginning to the potentially redemptive shower at the end.

  7. 7

    In "The Waste Land," death and life are the same. Discuss.

  8. 8

    Is "The Fire Sermon" really a sermon? If so, what is Eliot preaching? If not, why is it called one?

  9. 9

    "The Waste Land" is full of sounds, onomotopoiea: from "jug jug jug" to "drip drop" to "twit twit" to "co co rico." What is the significance of this technique for the poem as a whole? Analyze each of the moments in which such language appears.

  10. 10

    Is "The Waste Land" hopeful or pessimistic?