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Ladas 1Aris LadasProfessor ShannonAIID 201-04April 29, 2013War, What’s It Good For?“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become” (C.S. Lewis) Because war has such an impacton people, whether it’s soldiers or innocent civilians, it is only natural for society to respond to the changes around them. For writers, their work imitates the life around them,which usually reflect the popular thought at the time. America has had a history of post-war literature with writers creating new forms of literature in response to the war they areliving during. Starting with World War I, The Wasteland and The Great Gatsby are two classic examples of post-war literature. There are even examples of post-war literature today, such as The Road and The Dark Side, which respond to the current Middle Easternwars. Despite the differences between both wars, both eras of post-war literature explore the theme of death of civilization. Published in 1922, The Wasteland took a very pessimistic view on World War I. The whole poem is basically a mash-up of references from old literature, mythology,
history, etc. or as Elliot refers to them, “a heap of broken images” (23). These references aren’t just for showing off his knowledge, but they serve to Ladas 2illustrate the major theme of the poem, which is death of civilization. One of the effects that the destruction of World War I had on European cities was desolation and infertility. In the poem, water is a symbol used to represent both fertility and infertility. Water brings fertility to dry and desolate lands, such as the mid-West of the U.S. during the Dust Bowl. “I will show your fear in a handful of dust” (Elliot 30). Without water people start to become desperate. Madame Sosostris draws the card of the drowned Phoenician sailor, which represents the fertility god, whose statue would be thrown into the sea for offering. Later during the poem Phlebas the Phoencian faces death by water as Madame Sosostris predicted. Elliot also uses sex as a symbol for infertility, in which he describes three different infertile relationships. This shows that anyone can participate in infertile, lustful love, whether it’s commoners, royalty, or lowest of the low. “ The Wasteland is rife with sexual encounters that produce not life, but death” (Bolton 27). One of the most