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Eliot's use of water is not ambiguous, but arbitrary. Water is first a death-bringer for the drowned Phoenician sailor, then its lack is death-bringing, dessicating the living. Both water and its absence accomplish the same end, so water at times is its own opposite. But water is presented in a duality with rock, which acts as its opposite: "Here is rock but no water." Then water dripping is life-bringing, and then thunder and the storm, which bring shantih, peace.
Perhaps some intricate and convoluted rationale could attribute intratextual consistency to Eliot's use of water, but I'm guessing it would be a stretch. All of the other scenes and images and characters are consistent as to what they offer the narrator, however impossible it is to precisely define what that is. Even Sosostris, about whom I maintain the narrator has mixed feelings, is stable in herself; representing the commercialization and vulgarization of the supernatural. Both vulgarity and the prophetic gift are present in her as human qualities; Sosostris does not cancel herself out as the use of water does.
My message to you (August 1) seems to have gotten lost.
Diana Manister wrote:[log in to unmask]">What in the poem points you towards summing up water's meaning? I think rather in terms of effects and of changes in those.
Marcia, the poem's ambiguities contribute to its appeal, but even the best poems have weak spots, and Eliot's use of water in TWL seems weak, being so contradictory and confused that the sum of its meaning is zero. Diana
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