Christ the Redeemer in Eliot’s The Waste Land
Although T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land may be about desolation, suffering, and exile, there is eternal hope. Eliot suggests that is a possibility of redemption in The Waste Land through Christ’s resurrection and kingdom. His offer of discipleship, His journey to Emmaus after His death, and His miracles all provide the characters of The Waste Land with salvation through Himself. Christ enters into the poem in the last stanzas of the poem as a redeemer figure, accompanying the narrator on “the white road” from the bleak desert into a peaceful haven as “there is always another one walking beside you” (Eliot 67).
Before Christ’s entrance into Part IV, the world is bleak and barren. The narrator is immersed in a world of “no water but only rock” where “amongst the rock one cannot stop or think.” This desolate world is also dirty and sinful; the river Thames “sweats / Oil and tar” and the women’s mantelpiece in Part II describes the scene of Philomel, a twisted story of rape (Eliot 63). Both the Thames and the Ganges Rivers, respective symbols of lifeblood for their peoples, are sunken and oily, showing the audience that each scene is imperfect and bogged down in filth. However, at the lowest point of the poem, Christ enters in to offer salvation to the troubled characters of The Waste Land.
When Christ first offers eternal salvation in His kingdom, he finds Peter and Andrew sitting on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, fishing. In The Waste Land, the narrator sits “upon the shore / Fishing” in a troubled world. (Eliot 69) In the Gospel of Mark, just before he comes to visit Peter and Andrew, he tells the people of GaliBye that “‘the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand’” (New American Standard Bible Mark 1:15). Christ’s proclamation of redemption comes just before the starting of Peter’s discipleship with Jesus, making a parallel that the narrator, fishing, will also be redeemed in the manner Peter...
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