Unifying mankind through asexuality and abstraction
- Abstraction in The Waste Land.
- Eliot achieved abstraction through the medium of asexuality.
- Asexuality allowed him to disconnect from the notions of fertility and birth.
- For Eliot, Teiresias symbolized the unification of the two sexes.
- The paradox asexuality creates of simultaneous abstraction.
The unprecedented bloodshed, terror, and violence that blanketed Europe during World War I left the people at the War’s end saddened and detached, and the world, “chaotic and fragmented” (Tepper, p.79). Over ten million people had died, had been slaughtered, not counting those who later fell from the wounds, diseases, poverty, and starvation in which the Great War had abandoned them. The people of Europe stood motionless, still shocked from the “suffered occupation and carnage [they had experienced] at a previously unimaginable level” during the War (p.75). The poet T.S. Eliot was among these disenchanted, dissociated Europeans, having himself lost his “intimate friend” Jean Verdenal, “a young French medical student and aspiring poet,” to the merciless, bloodthirsty War (Dean, p.51).
[...] From a distance, Eliot can remember the past of happy, carefree sledding and then, through contrasting his memories of the past with the “brown land” of emptiness, superficiality, and crime he now impersonally views before him, is able to pass his sad conclusion on modern society onto the reader: who were living are now dying,” that is, society has fallen miserably from its glorious past (l.14; l.175; l.329). During this same time of war and unease, Sigmund Freud’s extensively publicized psychoanalysis quickly spread the theory that the mind of man was instinctually driven by insatiable and self-destructive aggressive and sexual impulses. [...]
[...] Asexuality, then, allowed him to disconnect from the notions of fertility and birth associated with sexuality and the violence in man’s nature he believed destroyed the happiness of the past via World War I. Thus, he could sit and judge from the outside, unable to generate more sexuality and, in turn, violence, in the reproductive sense while also being separate from sexuality and violence as they existed currently in the world. Abstraction through asexuality separated Eliot from society from its very root, man’s most basic nature and impulse, thereby making him even more impersonally detached than he could have through any other means of abstraction. [...]
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