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This report is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.

Thoughts After Margate: alternative readings of The Waste Land lines 300-302 Raymond Tallis

On Margate Sands
I can connect
Nothing with nothing

1. `Here the poet gives expression to a profound despair at the fragmentation of human life - as reflected in individual experience and in society as a whole - in the modern world. The condition of modernity, he tells us, is characterised by the emptying of the self, the collapse of the values that have upheld western civilisation, and the disintegration of culture...'1


2. Nothing with Nothing? Mr Eliot is surely exaggerating. Something must be connected with something (in his mind at any rate, if not in society) otherwise he would not have got home (if he were on a day trip) or back to his hotel or sanatorium (if he were on holiday) that afternoon. They would have had to `take him away' in an ambulance or, more likely, a plain (that is to say, unmarked) van. They certainly wouldn't have returned him to his usual domicile - not in those days when a rather brutal Lunacy Act was in full force and the 1959 Mental Health reforms - the product of the optimism about the prognosis for psychiatric illness that came with the new generation of anti-psychotic drugs - were not yet twinkling in anybody's eye.

3. So he's exaggerating?

Actually, I think there's more (or worse) being perpetrated here than exaggeration. You see, I find it difficult to ...

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