Women Characters in The Waste Land Thomas Stearns Elite’s The Waste land presents a galaxy of characters. Some women characters Include a priestess, a princess, a fortune teller, a lady of the upper class, a lower middle class girl, a typist girl as well as the girls of the river Thames. None of them is happy in the true sense. In the Epigraph we come across the Sybil at Cumae who was hung in a cage. Children threw stones at her and asked, “What do you want? ” In answer, she said, ‘l want to die. This very Sybil asked for as many years to live as there were grains of sands in her grasp from Apollo as a boon. In other words she asked for Immortality but she forgot to ask for Immortal youth Like Tinnitus who also suffered from agility. At last Tinnitus said that a man should not try to vary from the race of man. This Sybil at Cumae out of old age shrank and shrank to become so small that she was kept in a bottle and hung in a cage. It is the irony of fate that the person who wanted immortality is now longing for death. She represents the death- wish of the twentieth century people.
Lacking faith, they have no hope for resurrection and their life on this earth Is full of frustration, anguish, uncertainty and anxiety to survive. According to Eliot, man may be motivated to die physically with the objective of living spiritually ever after. The next woman is princess Marie Larch, a countess and a relation of king Eluding. The German princess ( I am not a Russian at all…. A pure German from Lithuania ) is an embodiment of the root -less news of European citizens. In this society summer and winter are mere seasons which indicate bodily comfort or discomfort.
So, she goes with the Archduke to the south In the winter. Her memories of childhood and her desire for physical comfort reveal her practical state of living which Is a common aspect of the sterile life of boredom of the inhabitants of The Waste Land. Her autobiography, ‘My Past”, records her experience of sledging with the Archduke , her cousin. When she was frightened, the archduke told her to hold him tightly so that she might not fall down. In the mountains she felt so free because that place was free from palace intrigues. Later on she was assassinated.
Madame Strolls Is a major character as she presents the figures In the Tarot pack of cards. The figures In the cards also present the major symbols In the poem. The cards remind the Egyptian tradition of using the cards for predicting the rise and fall of the Nile waters which is connected with the events of highest cultural importance of ancient civilization. Madame Stories uses the cards for vulgar fortune -telling. It indicates the decline of values in modern society. She deals in an Illicit business of making horoscope for others .
She is falsely regarded as the wisest woman in Europe. She tells one customer to tell Mrs.. Equitation that her horoscope Is ready but she Is scared about the police as her business Is Illicit-“one must be so careful these days. She lacks peace of mind. In the second section we come across Belladonna (A beautiful woman in Italy), a society lady. She resembles Cleopatra or Beeline. The chair she sat on glowed on the marble floor and it reminds us of Cleopatra barge. In the chair fruited vines are wrought from which a cupid peeped out, another hid his eyes behind his wings.
There is a paneled ceiling where a seven branched candelabra was shining which seemed to touch her jewelry. In the rich profusion. In the ceiling, dolphins wrought with colored stones swam. On the walls, there was the sylvan scene where Philomena was abused by force by her sister Process husband, King Uterus who cut her tongue but she managed to weave her sad story in a web which she sent to Prone. Prone in revenge cut up her own son and served it to Uterus and as soon as the king discovered it, he pursued his wife who fled to Philomena. Gods then changed Uterus into a hawk, Prone into a swallow, and Philomena into a nightingale.
There were many other legendry characters represented in the drawing room for decorative purpose only . They have lost their vitality and moral significance in the modern waste land and they are the stumps of dead trees, relics of the dead past. Lady Belladonna waits for her lover and hears the foot steps slowly mounting up the stairs. She is combing her hair under the blaze of light in a state of nervous excitement caused by the impending visit of her lover. The neurotic society woman is trying to make her silent lover into speech. The neurotic condition of the woman is expressed through her questionings.
She first begs him to speak but he cannot speak, he simply meditates on his thoughts which show the emotional starvation of modern life. She asks ,”what is the wind doing? ” He answers “nothing”. While he mocks, she is afflicted by the nervousness and boredom of a meaningless life. She only thinks of rushing out into the street with her hair down. In the second half of A Game Of Chess the problem of married life is described in the conversation of two cockney women in a London pub. It is a pub or a public place as we hear the barman saying, “Hurry up ,please, its time. He announces the closing time of the bar. We hear Ole, the deceitful and treacherous friend of Ill. Ole is talking about the incident of Oil’s abortion which is connected with the theme of sterility of the waste land. Ole advises Ill to give Albert a good time who will return room war after four years. Ill misused the money that Albert gave her for her dental treatment and broke her health by frequent abortion. She also advises Ill to look smart and attractive replacing her bad set of teeth otherwise there are other women who will satisfy him.
Ole also informs that Ill looks so antique at thirty-one that her husband can’t bear to look at her who spent all the money Albert gave her on pills to avoid conception. Next we get the description of the female typist who works all day like a machine. She raises her eyes and comes back home from the machine in the evening. Her dull heart throbs with human warmth as she waits to be released from her boring work at the desk. She finishes her meal in a hurry in tin-pots as her lover, a young man carbuncular pimples grown out of too much exhaustion . She is feeling uneasy and awkward.
He is shrewd enough to guess her helplessness. He knows the proper time to come and make love with the girl who is tired and bored. She will not resist his caresses though she may not take active interest in love making. He thinks her indifference as her consent. After the act is over, he does not waste time in conversation. He gives her a parting kiss and moves to the unlit stairs. After the departure of the lover, she looks to the mirror whether any harm is done to her hair or complexion. She is mentally relieved to know that the act is over and puts a record on the gramophone to cheer her spirits.
Next we listen to the song of the three Thames daughters. Each of them was violated but they accept this violation with resignation. They are the victims of fraud and each one has her own story of lust and canoe at Richmond, a vacation spot at Thames. The second daughter’s ravishing haunts her always. She remembers after the act the ravisher was repentant and remised a new start but she kept silence as he cannot undo what was done to her. Her life is full of despair. The third with finger nails of dirty hands deceived at Margaret is the same typist girl again.
She sits among the honest humble people who expect nothing but suffer wrongs at the hands of powerful male brutes. Reviewing all the characters both legendary and modern, it can be concluded that women always have been victims of oppression by men. The Sybil when asked for immortality, Apollo, the sun-god did not warn her of the futility of her wish. As a result her boon of immortality turned into a curse. The princess Marie asserts that she is not a Russian but a German. Her loss of nationality, points to the refugee problem after the First World War.
Her sledging with her lover in the mountains cannot give her true Joy as she is unscrupulous of physical pleasure. Madam Stories is ever scared of the police as she deals in an illicit trade of fortune – telling though she is regarded as the wisest woman in Europe. The lady of situations or Belladonna in spite of her gorgeous dressing table ,art, architecture, sculpture presented in the ceiling and walls of her suffers from neurotic problems. The presence of her does not bring any solace. Rather she wants to run to the streets with her hairs open.