In the poem, The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot gives a primarily positive connotation by using the theme of speech, language, and failure of speech. In each of the sections, Eliot shows how speech and communication are important in life. He also shows that speech cannot always accomplish what actions can. The way the characters in the poem use speech show that speech and communication are important.
A Game of Chess
This section may be the best example of communication in the whole poem. While many of the other themes are present, the main part of this section deal with the interaction between two people, in two different places. Although at first these conversations seem to be very fruitless and unproductive, at the end it is revealed that what was trying to be
accomplished by the conversations happens anyway.
The first part of A Game of Chess tells of a man and a woman having dinner. A very elaborate description of the dinner scene, the woman, and the sights and smells that fill the room. After dinner to woman tries to engage the man in conversation but to no avail. As she continues to get more frustrated with and his unwillingness to answer her questions, it would seem Eliot is showing how speech and communication do not accomplish their intended goals. The woman keeps asking the man what he wants to do after dinner, but only his thoughts are revealed to the
reader, he does not respond to the woman. Eventually after the woman’s tiring effort to get a response they still end up taking a carriage ride and playing a game of chess. So while the woman thought that she was getting no where with him, she actually achieved exactly what she wanted. In this sense a transformation occurs from the point in which the woman thought that she was getting no where to the point where she realized that he had been listening the whole time, and she still got to do what she wanted to do.
The second part of this section tells of two women who’s husbands are off to war. One is telling the other that she should try to make herself look good for her husband upon his return. She insists that she has no reason for looking good and that she does not want anymore kids
anyway. The woman eventually get fed up with her ignorance and says that her husband may leave her if she does not change for him. Here it seems that communication is also pointless because no matter how much the woman tries to change the other’s mind she still
refuses to change. When the husbands do finally return though, they are still happy to see their wives and the section ends with good night, ladies which shows that the husbands were happy to see their wives no matter what they looked like. The same transformation occurs here as
well. In the beginning the conversation seems to be going nowhere but what was trying to get accomplished still does.
What the Thunder Said
This final section talks about the salvation of the Waste Land. This dry arid place must have water to go on existing and to change from the state that it is in now. The thunder can be heard from beyond the mountain but it is not coming over into the valley to save the Waste Land.
A story is told of a woman who plays a violin with a strand of her hair as a bow. This music brings singing from the empty cisterns and wells of the land, and eventually it is this woman’s song which brings the rains to the Waste Land. Although it is not speech, this is a form of communication, and it shows the importance of it. The song is the salvation of the Waste Land. When the rains finally come, the thunder speaks with the voice of the gods. It repeats over and over the word Da, which comes from the Upanishads. It can be translated in three different ways by the gods, man, or demons. This shows that while one thing is said it can be
interpreted in many ways depending upon the listener. No matter how it is interpreted though, the thunder and its voice have renewed this arid place. Once more Eliot shows that communication is the key to keeping the world from becoming a Waste Land, and that it is the only thing that can save it.
All these examples from each section show how Eliot uses speech and failure of speech to give the image of the poem a positive connotation. The way that Eliot presents this theme in the poem is positive because he shows that speech and communication are important.