Exploring The Waste Land
A commentary page linked from The Waste Land, Part I, line 15

Part I
Line 15

The three Maries

I see three different Maries:

  1. There is Marie, the historical figure, a participant in an imperial scandal still not forgotten in 1920s. The time between The Waste Land and the death of Archduke Rudolph is about the same as now and the assassination of the Kennedys. Eliot might have mentioned the Archduke here to bring to mind the sterile sex of the Mayerling affair.
  2. There is Marie, the woman. This is the middle-aged hausfrau that might never have been a Countess. This is the woman who went sledding with a boy in her youth but now travels south for the winter. It is she who had a conversation with a young American poet and MAY have told him of escaping from her husband by staying at her house on the lake in the mountains. This MAY have caused the older poet to think of being free from his own wife while at another lake in the mountains (Eliot wrote part of "The Waste Land" while undergoing psychiatric treatment at Lausanne, Switzerland near Lake Leman, also known as lake Geneva).
  3. There is Marie, the symbol. If you do not recognize the Marie of The Waste Land as either the historical person or even as a real woman then this is the reading to rely on for a meaning in the poem and this is the reading that one usually comes across in the criticisms.

As with the other allusions in The Waste Land the more layers you see the more you get out of the poem. I encourage people to think of the relatively neglicted personal layer.

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: cq015.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
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