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Nancy writes: "I think, however, that Eliot was never constrained by the
specific use of a character in a source: the Tiresias in Sophocles may not
determine that in Eliot. The former was not--in any of the versions I
know--defined by physical traits except blindness. Are there any?"

Some scattered observations:

This is correct. A point I had in mind in my original post on this is that,
characteristically (if I'm not mistaken) Eliot's allusions are narrowly
focused: the main problem of the reader is avoiding taking into account _too
much_ of the original, of selecting _just_ those elements that are relevant
to the general thrust of the poem. In the present instance, despite the
highly sexualized context, I would think that it is the prophetic power of
Tiresias, NOT his sexual history, that is most relevant.

TWL is a poem of failed or missed or lost or destroyed or poisonous
connections, of isolation, of _idiotes_ (sp?) in the Greek sense of that
word; of painful privacy & incapacity to break out of that privacy. I think
Tom's focus on rape is misleading here. There is one rape (by the barbarous
king), and _that_ story (I assume the OVidian context is the relevant one)
exhibits central human relations being violated: husband/wife, mother/son,
host/guest. Rape is a violation of human unity, but NOT the only violation,
and to find rape all over the place impoverishes the poem.

Now, I think that even writers who were themselves homosexual (or at least
homoerotic) have _used_ homosexual imagery to suggest sterility or other
failed human relations. (The Beast in the Jungle may be an instance.) The
Eugenides episode is definitely _not_ a rape; it is a failed seduction, a
failure to form even the superficial  relationship of a one-night stand. And
to see the typist as a rape victim empties the episode of meaning: the key
term is INDIFFERENCE. No rape victim could be hardly aware of her departed
violater.

Carrol