Study Guide

The Waste Land Sex

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In "The Waste Land," the status of sex is pretty much a measuring stick for how morally demolished society is. On several occasions, when it comes time for Eliot to show how truly low we've all fallen, he points toward sex—and not just sex, but the separation of sex from love. There's no getting around it; pop culture is totally obsessed with sex, and it tries to throw sex in our faces as much as it can. For Eliot, sex once had the potential to be a beautiful thing. But in modern times, this beauty (as with all forms of beauty) has been completely stripped of its significance, mostly because the act of sex no longer has anything to do with love. Call Eliot a little old-fashioned, but the guy's observations on sex pretty much still hold true for much of pop culture today.

Questions About Sex

  1. How does Eliot represent the difference between sex, fertility, and birth in "The Waste Land"? 
  2. Why does he represent these things differently? How are they connected?
  3. Is there any hope for redeeming the act of sex in this poem, or is Eliot suggesting that sex should only be had for reproductive purposes?
  4. How does the scene between the typist and the young man carbuncular (220-248) make you feel about sex? Is it an accurate portrayal of what sex has come to mean in the modern world? How so? How not so?

Chew on This

In "The Waste Land," Eliot suggests that the world needs a sexual revolution, just not the kind we might usually think of.

Judging by "The Waste Land," it appears that Eliot is actually terrified of sex. His prudish anger toward the subject is just misplaced fear.

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