The first four parts of The Wasteland are made up of sets of what may be called images. Eliot speaks through many voices and characters in the course of the poem; all of them see what is around them as a wasteland. The reader gets a variety of insights into the state of consciousness which the poem is portraying. Part I deals with memories, II and III deals and focuses on points outside it. Part IV to some extent is a proper part of ‘The Wasteland’ presents an ambiguous image of death, Part V brings the poem to a kind of climax ‘The Wasteland’ to a single sentence it might be – the wasteland consciousness life is a dream- like nasty, arid lacking in all order and long.
Most of the images in Eliot are drawn from myth, religion and nature and are centered around the basic theme of death and rebirth. Thus, spring stands for rebirth and winter for death, drought for spiritual dryness and rain for spiritual fertility, growth and rejuvenation, the rock under the sun may typify spiritual and disintegration, while water and fish may stand for growth. Here in the ‘wasteland’ the drowned Phoenician sailor stands for the fertility God thrown into the waters as a ritual.
Broadly speaking there are two groups of images in T.S Eliot’s poetry- simple images such as similes, metaphors, symbols, and pictures. There are numerous examples for simple images in Wasteland. These might be called as pictures. There are- pictures of the hyacinth girl, Marie of Germany. There is Madame Sosostris, the clairvoyant, the crowd crossing London bridge on winter morning (a picture of desolation) and a bar in the pub. There is the Thames and Mr. Eugaries; the typist and her sordid clerk and finally in the last section the mistier pictures of crowds in anger and revolution and the mysterious third person who can only be seen as you walk long.
The songs of the birds are also significant. The poem describes them phonetically. The Jug Jug of the Nightingale, Drip drop Drip drop song of the hermit thrust and the coco rico coco rico of the cock have special symbolic meaning. All of these are arresting images.
The title of the poem itself brings an image before our eyes, of a desert, of a land once fertile becoming barren. This image keeps recurring throughout the poem. In the very second line “Lilacs out of the dead land” we have the reference to the dead land. The image is further extended to dead trees under the burning seen and dry stones over which no water tickles. Towards the end the betrayal and trail of Jesus are referred to the track up the barren mountain is described. Near the chapel perilous there are empty cisterns and exhausted wells. The song of the dry bones are these dryness and barrenness and the lack of water stand for spiritual state of modern world.
Reference to death and decay in the poem occur frequently example: The Burial Corpse, the drowned phlebas. At the chapel perilous, a cock crows from the roof as lightening flashes thunder rolls and damp winds. These are hints that death may be a beginning to new life and that drought is not final .
Thus, in ‘The Wasteland’ the poet primarily relies on images lined together around a fundamental theme Eliot is not a mere symbolist or imagist, because his poems are more than a mere string of disconnected images. He elicits emotion without directly expressing it, by evoking some situation which by itself arouses emotion.