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Eliot’s Poetry

Summary

The Waste Land Section V: “What the Thunder Said”

Summary The Waste Land Section V: “What the Thunder Said”

Finally Eliot turns to the Fisher King himself, still on the shore fishing. The possibility of regeneration for the “arid plain” of society has been long ago discarded. Instead, the king will do his best to put in order what remains of his kingdom, and he will then surrender, although he still fails to understand the true significance of the coming void (as implied by the phrase “peace which passeth understanding”). The burst of allusions at the end can be read as either a final attempt at coherence or as a final dissolution into a world of fragments and rubbish. The king offers some consolation: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins,” he says, suggesting that it will be possible to continue on despite the failed redemption. It will still be possible for him, and for Eliot, to “fit you,” to create art in the face of madness. It is important that the last words of the poem are in a non-Western language: Although the meaning of the words themselves communicates resignation (“peace which passeth understanding”), they invoke an alternative set of paradigms to those of the Western world; they offer a glimpse into a culture and a value system new to us—and, thus, offer some hope for an alternative to our own dead world.