T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” is fragmented into five parts entitled: 1) The burial of the Dead; 2) A Game of Chess; 3) The fire Sermon; 4) Death by Water; 5) What the Thunder Said. In the second section “A Game of Chess” which is summarized here, is having two parts or stories. The first story is of a high-class rich society and another is from a low-class society. In both stories, the poet pictures the condition of women and the new modernized love. The poet explains that love in the modern world is not pure. People exchange the physical presence, but they are not emotionally connected. In modern days, love demands look. Love is not selfless anymore. The poet tries to explain that love has become like a game of chess, a cerebral game in which the other always wants to dominate.
In the first part of the poem, the poet explains the meaningless relationship between two lovers. They are not any more attracted to each other. The poetnarrates, she is sitting on a chair which is “like a burnished throne.” This is taken from a play by Shakespeare, named “Antony Cleopatra”. So, this lady is like queen Cleopatra. The poet says the shining throne is reflecting on the marble. The mirror is decorated withwrought-iron vines from which a golden cupid is peeing out (and there is another statue of a cupid who is covering his eyes from his wing). Mirror reflection doubles the flame of candles in a seven-branched candle holder. Lights are reflecting on the table in the same way as the jewelry is glittering from the satin cases. In the next few lines, the poet tells about the make-up and cosmetics of the lady. The uncorked vials made of ivory and colorful glass is filled with perfumes. These strange and synthetic perfumes either in cream, powder, or liquid are troubling and confusing, theyoverwhelm the senses with their smells which gets disturbed by the fresh air coming through the window. These fresh airs also ascended the candle flames and the smoke coming from the candle is rising towards the decorated ceiling and makes a pattern. A huge sea-wood lined with copper and is framed withcolored stones which seem green and orange. This sheds a sad light on a dolphin statue. There is a forest-scene painting hanging above the antique fireplace. The painting depicts the transformation of “Philomela” into a nightingale, who was raped by a brutal king. Here the poet uses this allusion to show the pathetic condition of women and men dominancein society. Philomel turns into a nightingale, fills the desert with her unbreakable voice. Still, she cries out and the world follows the “jug jug”, a nightingale song with their dirty ears. This depicts that people lost their humanity and they are unable to hear women crying in pain. Other paintings are hanging on the walls with other old relics. Statues lean out and hide the enclosed room. Footsteps shuffled on the stairs. The lady brushes her hair in the firelight. The hair strands spread in red fiery points, just like her words, which then leads to savage silence.
Next, the lady is talking to her lover. She is aggressive and at the same timepleading. She says “I am feeling anxious and tensed. I am feeling bad tonight. Stay with me. Speak to me.” She is asking her lover, “why don’t you speak to me? What are you thinking? I never know what you always think.”
He replies, “I think we are in a broken dark world. We are alone. We are in cold and pain. We are like a dead human who loses their form and purpose of living”
The lady screams, “what is that sound?” He replies that this is the wind under the door. She again asks, “What’s that other sound? What is the wind doing?”. He says nothing and again nothing. She shouts in pain and anger “Do you know anything? Do you see anything? Do you remember anything?” The lady is so anxious that she is asking the same question repeatedly without giving her lover a chance to answer.
He replies I remember the drowned man’s eyes like pearls (in the tarot card, explained in section one: theburial of the dead). The lady gets frustrated, she says “Are you alive or not? Is there anything in your head or you are lost?”
He again spills out something random and says oh! that ragtime song. It is so elegant and smart. She says “What should I do now? What should I do? Should I go to rush outside just like this and walk down the street with my hair open? What should we do tomorrow? What on earth should we do?”Are we doing the same thing that we always do? Heat the water for tea at ten. And if it rains, we go out for a drive and play the game of chess. Rubbing out eyes that are stuck at the only game and waiting for someone to knock on the car window. So here the game of chess is the symbol of the diminishment of love and romance. That means the lovers are together but their love and feeling for each other are gone. Their love is reduced to a strategic game. There is no time for each other. Also, the lady says they wait for someone to knock and disturb their game in between. That means she is tired of her meaningless life and waiting for death to come.
Now, the poet jumps into another scene of a London bar. This tale is of the low-class society. Two ladies and a man are sitting in a bar and talking about a third lady named, Lil. One lady says “when Lil’s husband got discharged from the army, I said to Lil without mincing my words. I said to her”. In between, a waiter comes and says, “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME FOR THE PUB TO CLOSE”. She ignores the waiter and continues her story. She said to Lil that “Now Albert is coming back home from war. Get smart and get yourself groomed. He would want to know, what you have done with the money he gave you to fix your teeth. Yes, I know he gave you money, as I was also there. Lil, you get these old teeth removed and get a new set. Albert said he could not bear to look you like this anymore. Think of the poor Albert. He has been in the army for the last four years and now he needs a good and pleasurable time. If you cannot give him that good time, then others will give him that pleasure.” Lil said “Ohh! Is that so?” The lady said “Yes, something like that.”Then Lil sarcastically said, “then I know whom I should thank.” The lady explains that Lil gave her a pointed and doubtful look. Again, the waiter comes and says —”HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME FOR THE PUB TO CLOSE.” The lady continues and narrates her conversation with Lil. She said to Lil, “If you don’t like the things, the way they are, then move on, other will come and chose him if you don’t want him.But, if Albert leaves you, don’t say later that I did not warn you. Look at yourself, you look so old (though she is only 30). Lil said,” it’s not my fault, I cannot help it. It is the medicine I took for abortion. (She already has five kids and nearly died during the birth of the baby George). The pharmacist said it would be all fine, but I have not been the same since then”. The lady from the bar said to Lil “you are a fool. Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone and will be there. And if, you don’t want children why did you get married?” The Bartender again comes and says, “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME FOR THE PUB TO CLOSE.” The lady continues her story, “Well, that Sunday Albert came home. They had hot ham and offered me the dinner to enjoy the hot meal.” The waiter again reminds them, “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME FOR THE PUB TO CLOSE. HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME FOR THE PUB TO CLOSE.” This time, they end their conversation and say “Good night Bill. Good night Lou. Good night May. Good night. Tata. Good night. Good night. Good night, ladies, good night, lovely ladies, good night, good night.”
The second section of T. S. Eliot’s poem symbolizes the emotional sterility of the modern world. This section importantly shows the inability to communicate or connect at all levels of society. In this part also the poet made a collage with two different scenes.Death is discussed in different forms like abortion and the repeated sentence by bartender “Hurry up its time.” The highly complex, erudite, and allusive style of the poem is commendable. In “The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot incorporated past historical, mythological, and literary ideas in a new form.