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Modernism in Ulysses and The Wasteland: Analytical Essay

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The cultural phenomenon of modernism arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in result of wanting to break past generic works and create something new and modern as another way of expressing the changes of society. Pre-modernism was a way that people created things like art in service of god. Literature was created to document history or particular lifestyles as they happened. The modernists always wanted to progressively make their work better. An author from the modernist period, known as James Joyce, has written many novels such as Dubliners, The Dead, Araby, Finnegan’s Wake, The Sisters and Ulysses. Another Author that is very famous for his poems during the modernist period is Thomas Sterns Eliot. T.S. Eliot has written famous poems that include The Waste Land, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, The Hollow Men and Rhapsody on a Windy Night. The main books that will be focused on are The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land, by James Joyce. I will be analyzing modernism, by looking at these writers and their works.

James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet whose literary works were some of the most important works from the modernist era. His most famous literary works is Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. An example of one of Joyce’s work is “Dubliners”. Joyce first submitted “Dubliners” in 1905, after he had submitted it 18 times to 15 different publishers who refused to publish it because the novel had the word “bloody” and an unappealing mention to King Edward the 7th. Although prosecution did not follow when the book was finally published, it ended up being Joyce’s last experience of censorship. Much controversy surrounded the book, as it includes examples of unappealing human behavior such as simony, prostitution, suicide and drunkenness.

Joyce’s work has been incorporated into many programs. The Waste Land and other literary works that were written by Joyce have been accused of being convoluted and deliberately off and obscure. He incorporates the stream of consciousness. The use of epiphany focuses on uncovering the soul of individuals, classifying this as a modern work. Modernism looks to encourage individualism. Joyce combines stream of consciousness, absurdist drama and mythical parallelism in formal combination that has had an insightful influence on other modernists and future generations of novelists.

T.S. Eliot’s Poems have evident elements of the modernism movement, which made them poems extremely famous during the modernist era. In “The Waste Land”, Eliot shows how modern life made him uncomfortable and distinguished that with medieval attributes in society. This poem can be considered as an important modernist text, as Eliot includes aspects such as the darker side of human nature, self-awareness and introspective into newly found modernism. The main element found in The Waste Land is the dependence on imageries. The poem displays many metaphorical pictures that suggest the feeling of loss, solitude or sadness in modern day man. Although the reader doesn’t understand these images when reading this poem, the narrator guarantees explanation to show the reader how to understand the meaning of the poem from fragmentation. This structure of importance from fragmentation is one of the most valued features of modernism. The poem describes the modern world, or what the narrator describes as “the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” The numerous images of deterioration are symbolic of modern life in expression of what it contains and how it resembles how we live today. This poems style reflects modern life and its impact on people’s emotions and actions. Eliot is successful shows this through his style and flow in his poems. He uses many techniques and themes such as imagery, depression, repetition, human isolation and fragmentation. All these techniques help portray and reflect modern life for the reader and its status in real manner.

UKEssays. November 2018. T S Eliot As A Modernist Poet English Literature Essay. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 9 March 2019].

The Waste Land is about the celebration and death of ethnicity. Eliot wrote this poem as a eulogy to the modern world that we live in, which many consider to be abrupt. It was written in a time when singing, dancing and popular culture were the main focus of literature and general happiness for the privileged and less-privileged generation. The Waste Land contains knowledge about the modern world and its truths than any other work during the modernist era. It serves its purpose as evidence to what was happening in human culture during the time it was written.

Part 1 of The Waste Land was called The Burial of the Dead. It began with speaker, Marie. Marie describes specific privileged memories in modern history throughout part 1. But then, the past haunts her in a small way and results in her reading books in her spare time to escape the past. The parts final verses describes a London Bridge covered in fog as a path to the Underworld, where people would “fix his eyes before his feet” and where souls would reunite and recognize each other.

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In Part 2, named A Game of Chess the narrator describes the environment of a higher-class woman’s bedroom. They describe the ornate chair, the marble floor, the fireplace, and her jewels and perfume. The narrator then says that the woman is arguing with a man that was assumed to be somewhat of a romantic companion. The woman is explaining to the man that her “nerves are bad tonight”, and this seems to be the result of what had occurred earlier at a bar in London where two women are conversing about a toxic or bad marriage that their friend is experiencing.

Death by Water is the shortest poem part of The Waste Land. The narrator describes conflicting imagery as he describes the life of Renaissance poets with the unappealing canal during the 20th century, which creates an imagery of something beautiful and rich within something the complete opposite. Tiresias (who is the narrator) talks about a modern-day affair between a clerk and a typist. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator informs the reader how brief life is.

The final part of The Waste Land is set in a desolate landscape where it is focused on a group of spiritual anonymous narrators. The first verse’s description of “torchlight on sweaty faces” and an ”agony in stony places” suggests an eerie feeling towards how the poem is going to end. The thunder seems to holds small promise as it is described that the rain never follows behind each clap. The thunder then moves to a jungle where the narrator places meaning behind each clap of thunder. The words are translated to Given, compassion and control which results in the narrator feeling peaceful.

Ulysses’ title was names after Odysseus, who was a Roman Warrior. Ulysses is constantly seeking new adventures and battles throughout the text as he is not happy living the average citizen life. Tennyson says that “Ulysses’ was written under the sense of loss and that all had gone by, but that still life must be fought out to the end.”

During the narrative, the characters move throughout their day, which is set in Dublin. They converse between many people who represent historical and modern figures but also fictional. Ulysses is described to be a source for multiple points of view that analyse the human condition in modern times and how the world has affected them throughout their year of living. This novel is a well-thought-out “lighter and more playful” version of Homer’s The Odyssey.

In chapter Seven, Stephen and Bloom (or Odysseus and Telemachus) meet for the first, although they both know who each other are. Bloom fails to complete an advertising contract, whilst Stephen hands over the letter that the schoolmaster gave to him. The change in plot as newspaper headlines appears to interrupt the straightforward plot of the story. The novels basic purpose is to create a hero that gos against the average hero qualities in earlier novels. Joyce combined his novels with a realist representation with obscure representation. Many adulterous crimes are committed in this novel, one including marital affairs.


Concluding both texts, Ulysses and The Wasteland were both published and released in 1922. Modernism is linked with the First World War, which then resonates with adultery crimes and maleficent crimes. These two authors had new ideas to change the way future novelists would write their poems and novels. They showed “the real” side of the world and how it impacted the people born and grown in it. These modernist novels and poems addressed issues such as the role of women in society, poverty, science verses religion and racism. A lot of people could not handle a novel or poem full of this much truth for the world to see so most of these modernist texts were not published right away and initially failed to be published my multiple publishers.

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Modernism in Ulysses and The Wasteland: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
“Modernism in Ulysses and The Wasteland: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Modernism in Ulysses and The Wasteland: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].
Modernism in Ulysses and The Wasteland: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Oct 3]. Available from:
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