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Hello and welcome back to yet another session of the NPTEL course, ‘Introduction to world literature’. We are in the middle of our discussion of the poem, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. (Refer Slide Time 0:24) We are looking at the 2nd part, a game of chess and we have been seeing how this is seen as a representative poem of the modernist period and also how this entirely captured the episodicnature of life in the early 20th century. (Refer Slide Time 0:37) When we ended the previous lecture, it was with this neurotic paranoid woman who was sounding anxious and who was sounding paranoid about the noises that she heard around her and we have a speaker who is trying to console her but at the same time, we realise that it is an impossible task. The woman continues to be neurotic and paranoid and we also realise that there is no linear narrative structure, there is no storyline which is built into this poem. It is only a sequence of, series of events, a series of images which are scattered, which are more like at a metaphorical level, begging to be seen as images of the early 20th century of the modern world. Before we continue with the poem, I also want you to think about the title, a game of chess. As mentioned earlier, this is also from the title of a play by Thomas Middleton titled, a game of chess and there is also a reference to another of Middleton’s plays, women beware, women, where there is a scene which also talks about, a game of chess where there is a game of chess and a series of events around it. So when Eliot is using this title, a game of chess and when he is referring to a game of chess, there are many things which are subtly indicated over here. If you think about this game, chess is unlike many other games. There is a calculated nature into this game. The moves, the steps are all measured and every single step, every single move that is being made is designed in such a way that it should expedite, it should accelerate the defeat of the enemy. So this is how the movements, the various steps in this game are designed. There is, of course, a certain kind of spontaneity but that spontaneity is a very measured one. It is something which is very very calculative. So when Elliott is using this game as a central referral point in this discussion which is about lavish rooms, about the cheapness of the modern society, about walls, about neurosis, about paranoia and when he is placing the game of chess as a central motif in some way or the other in a very very subtle way, he is also referring to how relationships and every single move in the modern society are governed by these calculated moves. There is a purpose, there is a very definite end and a competitive aim, which is meant to annihilate the enemy, which is always in opposition to the other. And unlike many other games, this is a game which one plays together. Much of the moves happen inside the head, there are things that we anticipate. The next move and the move after that is anticipated when one makes one pawn move ahead or go back and this is also a game which cannot be predicted because it is happening inside the heads of the opponents. It could go anywhere. And also there are rehearsed moves as if you are familiar with the game, you would know that there are different kinds of moves, there are certain patterns, there are certain kinds of moves which would also force the opponent to move in a certain way. It is a very very calculated game. And it takes intelligence, it takes perseverance. It is not something which comes to you as a natural gift. It is a technique, it is something that you develop over a period of time. It is something towards which in order to excel in that, you need to invest your time, you need to invest your energy. It requires not just emotional investment, it also requires a certain kind of an intellectual investment. So this is what Eliot also perhaps has in mind when he is bringing to the forefront, the game of chess. And in terms of action, apparently, there is no action in a game of chess but we know that the action is happening at various levels within this chessboard. And the way victory and failure gets decided, it is very very different. There are no grey areas, there are no ambiguities about it irrespective of the number of moves that you make. Irrespective of the kind of progress that you are making in the beginning or towards the end of the game, once you manage to slay the King, it is also evident that you are victorious. Fine, there is a certain finality to it at the end of the game. So there is also another thing. In the, in Thomas Middleton’s play, Beware women, there is also a reference to sexuality in the context of the game of chess. So here, Eliot is also trying to perhaps indicate to us, hint it out to us like it is there in almost throughout this poem that there is no spontaneity even when it comes to sexuality, there is no spontaneity even when it comes to human relationship if it is a sexual relationship. It is all based on calculated moves designed to take you towards the final step, the destination which means victory or failure. Coming back to the discussion of this poem, I begin looking at this segment where the speaker is also trying to remember. I remember those are pearls that were his eyes. Are you alive or not? Is there nothing in your head? Yes, so again Eliot is taking back to a classical reference. This is from Tempest, Shakespeare’s play. This is a line from the Tempest about a drowned person’s eyes turning into pearls. It also invokes a zombielike image which is very very typically modernist. And remember the reference to war and how he spoke about dead men losing their bones and rats’ alleys but here when he makes this reference to Tempest and Shakespeare again, what follows soon after is also a sense of disappointment that modern audience may not really get it because they do not have the patience or perhaps the intellect for it. Or perhaps they really do not care. And that is what the poem begins to indicate from now on. I read to you from the poem. Are you alive or not? Is there nothing in your head? But that Shakespearean rag-It is so elegant so intelligent. What shall I do now? What shall I do? I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street with my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do? When he is talking about the pearls and the sinking eyes, he is talking about the hollowness of modern society and he also realises how terrible the modern people, how modern society is. And soon after this reference to Tempest, he is moving to Shakespearean rag. So what is this Shakespearean rag? Perhaps, this is an allusion to a song called that mysterious rag. It was a popular one it is sort of based on this popular song by Erwing Berlin and this was a song from Eliot’s times. So he is only referring to that it is a Shakespearean rag to talk about how popular certain other things are which has got nothing to do with the classical, which has got nothing to do with the intensity that Elliott is referring to in terms of scholarship, in terms of classical knowledge and terms of the traditional value system that he thinks is also waning away gradually but very very steadily. And look at the but in this poem which is also placed slightly away from the rest of it, from the rest of the poem. And the but also in a certain way signifies that there is a break that we are going to move onto another segment onto, that we are going to move onto another set of things which the poem is going to take us through. So when he is talking about the Shakespearean rag, this popular song, that it is elegant, so intelligent. Of course, he is being very very sarcastic and he is also looking at the modern world where there is perhaps hardly any difference between Tempest, a line from Tempest or a line from one of the popular songs. And now, a series of questions. What shall I do? What shall I do? What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do? He is referring to a series of people who got a lot of time in their hand but they are clueless about what to do. And think about the early 20th century and as we recalled in the previous session, this is the time after the Industrial Revolution. This is the time when technology is really taking on the world and it is sweeping across Europe. And this is the time when technology is aiding the process of colonisation. We find that especially in the context of Britain, there are a lot of other colonies which are also joining hands with Britain and moving ahead in a certain way at a very great place in terms of technology, in terms of making life easier. So there is certainly a reference to life being made easy and people having a lot of time at hand and not least to recall the World War that had just happened and how technology also aided it in multiple ways. So here Elliott is referring to a set of people who really do not know what to do with their time and these series of questions, it reflects their helplessness, their sense of lack and this total absence of any kind of purpose or any kind of direction which could take them ahead. There is also an inability, a very inherent ability to do, to know what is meaningful and what I not. What is worth pursuing and what is not? In a certain way, the poem in the first few segments, it gives us a sense of the many other worthwhile things the speaker had been pursuing or what he thinks is worth pursuing. For example, the classics or mythology, the value system which has been passed on. And now when the poet is talking about the contemporary modern world, he also realises that there is an inability to communicate this across. That no one knows what to do and it is nothingness which begins to dominate. There is the futility of everything which begins to fill the air. One could by extension even talk about the loss of religion or spirituality in modern life and in t’s own case if you know about one of his later poems, The return of the Magi and if you also know about one of his later poems where he talks about his return to religion, his return to spirituality, the poem where he talks about the three Magi, we also get to know that there is a way in which Eliot is perhaps referring the loss of anything concrete in modern life and this is something which had begun to set in. From the Victorian times onwards if you will recall Matthew Arnold’s poem, the Dover Beach which we have already taken a look at it, is a very clear signifier, a very clear indicator of how everything begins to ebb away from that a Sea of Faith cannot hold any more. So in the early 20th century, during the modernist times, we find most of the writers lamenting this loss and as Elliott has beautifully captured, the centre cannot hold any more. There is nothing that could remain at the centre. And this poem, wasteland in its entirety and this section, in particular, it is actually drawing our attention to how this leads people entirely helpless as to they are still trying to figure out what to be done with their lives. Nothing seems to be worth pursuing and nothing seems to be worth holding onto. Now become a very direct reference to a game of chess. The hot water is at ten. And if it rains, a closed car at four. And we shall play a game of chess, pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door. These are really really random things and very very mundane, ordinary things. They mean and they do not. And they talk about you know how people wish to just kill their time because there is nothing else to do. They perhaps would stay up all night and play a game of chess or they may just go out or just have a hot water bath at ten. And this is perhaps also again a reminder that without anything to hold onto, without these value systems which are soon ebbing away in the early 20th century, and without spirituality perhaps life is just another game of chess that we play with ourselves, among ourselves and sometimes competing for certain goals and most importantly, strategising every move. That is what he means by inserting the game of chess here as well. Even the midst of this futility, even in the midst of getting caught in a sense of purposelessness, these people who are involved in this situation, they still want to play chess, strategise, set goals, win and make calculated moves without being, without even attempting to be spontaneous. And sometimes it could also be just playing for the sake of playing a game because there is hardly anything else to do. So I would like to again remind you that in Thomas Middleton’s play, Women beware, women, there is a scene which has a game of chess and it represents all the moves that a man makes while cornering and seducing a woman. And this, in fact, comes up later again in The wasteland when Eliot tells us about the story of the young man, Carbon Clive. You can find it if you care to read through the rest of the sections of The wasteland. And when he was referring to lidless eyes, he is, of course, referring to sleepless nights and almost to the extent of an impossibility to fall asleep. Sleeping being also one of those conditions which would help us renovate ourselves, which would help us rejuvenate ourselves and give us a moment of rest, something away from the everydayness and from the mundaneness that one goes through. And about the waiting for a knock upon the door. It goes without saying that it talks about these set of people or these individuals who are waiting for something to happen, someone to come in, a knock at the door and some meaning to walk in through the door and fulfil their lives. Again this wait for something that may or may not come, again please recall the references from waiting for Godot where nothing comes, no one goes and nothing happens. And after this point, we find the poem entirely collapsing into disorder. There are just conversations at a pub. So the setting entirely changes. Think about the burnished throne at the beginning which made us recall, which made us think about Antony and Cleopatra, very classic, very romantic, eternal love. And from that, it has descended into a scene in the pub. Let us follow the conversation to see what Elliott is hinting at, where what he is taking us through. And it is in this final segment that there are elements of fertility, about sexuality, about loveless marriage, these are also some of the themes that he had been engaging within, this is particularly evident in Wasteland. Wasteland as you may already know it refers to this infertile land out of which nothing would come and it also refers to this absolute lack of virility in the figurative sense as well as in a sexual sense. And in this final segment when he is talking about marriage, sexuality and the many things and the many related emotions which are part of it, he is also drawing our attention to the central theme of this poem whout navigating our way through a world where all of these things have been reduced to merely a game of chess, merely calculated moves, a merely certain set of things, strategies and techniques that one use just to survive through the modern world. So coming to this final segment, When Lil’s husband got demobbed. So we are now being introduced to 2 characters. We have Lil and her husband and there is a speaker who seems to know everything about the characters who are part of this poem. And Lil is a character which instantly appears again in the wasteland. (Refer Slide Time 16:43)