American Literature Discussion Questions
1. Choose one of the five parts of The Waste Land and trace out the use of two of the three
techniques discussed in this lesson in Eliot (fragmentation, juxtaposition, allusion). How does
Eliot make the transition from scene to scene? Does there seem to be one speaker or two? How
do we make a sense of meaning out of the rush of words?
The wasteland is Eliot’s work of an elaborate and mysterious assortment of lines from other
works, conversations, scenery, languages and even fleeting observations. It is a style that allows
the poem to achieve multi layered significance that cannot be achieved in a straight forward way
of poetic style. In the poem fragmentation functions at three levels: to parallel broken
relationships and society; to deconstruct the familiar context that the reader is used to and at the
same time creating a personal sense of disconnection. This technique also challenges the reader
to seek meaning in mere fragments in this enigmatic. Eliot uses fragmentation to demonstrate the
chaotic state of modern existence and to juxtapose literary texts against one another. He sees how
humanity’s psyche had been broken and shattered by the World War 1 and by the collapse of the
British Empire. It also projects the barrage of sensory perceptions of humanity’s destroyed
psyche. Eliot’s work attempts to explain his references and these echoes and references are by
themselves fragments since he includes only parts and not whole texts. Eliot also uses allusion in
his lines, when the question asks what could possibly grow from your spirit there is the evidence
of allusion of the bible. Some lines allude to the books of the bible like Ecclesiastes for instance
“and they say that you probably don’t know the answer to this last question……..” this means
that people live life on a superficial level and do not bother to draw their thoughts together into
Eliot uses the word and to join words from scene to scene bringing a string of scenes, merging
them together instead of treating them separately. In the poem, there appears to be more than just
one speaker. We make sense of meaning out of this rush of words by examining the techniques
2. Examine how Anderson and Fitzgerald use external symbolism to reveal their characters'
states of mind. What type of reading demands does this approach make on the audience?
Anderson and Fitzgerald use external symbolism to reveal what the characters are thinking of. In
many occasions they use objects to refer to the feelings which the character...