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To Go
The Waste Land
The Waste Land
by T.S. Eliot

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

All in all, this poem sounds like what it is: a sophisticated meditation on modern society written by a very, very educated man. If you read the beginning aloud, you can tell right away that nothing gets resolved in this poem. One thought always leads to another because there is always a final word that keeps each line from being finished: "April is the cruelest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring" (1-3).

As you go on, you get a sense of the historical and cultural ground this poem is trying to cover, since it suddenly throws in lines like "Frisch weht der Wind" (German) (31), "Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!" (French) (202). Overall, the sound of the different languages has a "Tower of Babel" effect on the poem, constantly reminding you of the fractured and disconnected nature of modern society.

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