His ruminations are autobiographical is ambiguous in

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his ruminations are autobiographical is ambiguous. In “The Fire Sermon” he is at one point the Fisher King of the Grail legend, at another the blind prophet Tiresias. The Fisher King is an ancient “fertility myth” about a King presiding over a blasted and unregenerative land. He is ailing from a mysterious wound and the land must continue to bake in a relentless sun, desperate and broken until the wound begins to heal. Many knights journey to attempt this healing but fail. Impotent and helpless, the stricken King spends his days fishing in a stream where there are no longer any fish. Tiresias was a priest of Zeus, and as a young man he encountered two snakes mating and hit them with a stick. Hera, Zeus’s wife, was annoyed with him and changed him into a woman so he would understand what women feel. As a woman, Tiresias became a priestess of Hera, married and had children. After seven years as a woman, Tiresias again found mating snakes, struck
them with her staff, and became a man once more. As a result of his experiences, Zeus and Hera asked him to settle the question of which sex-- male or female-- experienced more pleasure during intercourse. Zeus claimed it was women; Hera claimed it was men. When Tiresias sided with Zeus, Hera struck him blind. Since Zeus could not undo what she had done, he gave Tiresias the gift of prophecy. So, the narrator in The Waste Land , is, at times, an old, tired Tiresias. He has seen everything, but, not unlike Sibyl, he seems powerless to offer up this wisdom to anyone—most likely because nobody in 1922 London would be remotely interested. They are much too involved in trying to “get ahead” or have meaningless sex, or drinking and gossiping all night in bars, or having endless hopeless arguments with their spouses—unable to stand each other, and unable to be part.
On one level The Waste Land is an epic telling the story of a blighted land that cannot be restored until empathy and compassion return, like the long absent rain, to reawaken the dry, parched earth. But it is an epic told in bits and pieces, further reflecting the metaphor of a shattered vase. Rather than epic heroes, we see ordinary people, who are lost in their mundane dreary existence. Tiresias, the man who was also a woman, watches helplessly from what seems to be another dimension. He watches sex without purpose or connection, over and over—a sort of depressed voyeur, no longer aroused by what now only appears to him as repetitive, futile, and fruitless coupling, undergone just to pass the time or to get it over with. Next, we have Madame Sosostris . Madame Sosostris is a famous clairvoyant. She suffers from a bad cold, but is nonetheless “known to be the wisest woman in Europe, / With a wicked pack of cards.” She gives a Tarot card reading that is inconclusive at best, though some of her cards seem to become characters, at other points in the poem. She is a fake, and she knows it--a con artist and an urban hustler—but she may, despite that, somehow be right. She says at one point “she cannot find the hanged man.” So, her reading is missing a card (like the gnomon in Dubliners

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