Monday, February 21, 2011

Birth Control and "The Wasteland"

Today in class we discussed birth control in connection with the section of "The Wasteland" in which Lil complains that abortion pills have caused her to look older. I found this article by Margaret Sanger online that outlines why women should use birth control. Her arguments are sound and well organized. She asserts that leaving either abortion or abstinence as the only options for women is cruel and unhealthy. Also, she argues that it is not fair for the children whose parents are not ready to raise them or do not want them.
I think Eliot evokes a controversial issue of his time by including this reference to abortion pills. Lil's state of mind and appearance seem to be as gloomy and ominous as the rest of the characters and descriptions in the poem. Why do you all think Eliot included this detail, and do you think it is significant to the poem as a whole?


Katherine said...

I think by Eliot including this section in his poem is a very big statement. Obviously the condition of Lil at this point in the poem is horrible. The poem points out that women were being "abused" for their bodies. Women were either given the option to have sex and get pregnant or practice abstinence. Both options, as Julia points out, are very unfair and unhealthy. By Eliot including the information about the abortion pills and the conversation between Lil and the narrator, it shows that Eliot might have wanted to make a point. To me, it would seem as if he was for birth control because he only draws attention to Lil's misery.

Samantha said...

According to my research, Eliot had no children. His first marriage, to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, was troubled, and it ended with their separation when she entered a mental institution. Although his second marriage, to Valerie Fletcher, was far more successful, it still did not produce any offspring. I think it is interesting that Eliot wrote about birth control and abortion in "The Wasteland" and then went on to not have any children. Possibly, he included this theme into the poem to share his personal choice of not wanting children with the reader.

Steven said...

When Eliot wrote "The Waste Land" in 1922, women began becoming politically and socially empowered. However, the lack of new birth control methods often left women fairly powerless sexually; they had often been portrayed and used as sexual objections. But new inventions like the female condom allow women to make safer choices about their bodies rather than relying on a male to properly use one. I also find it fascinating that Eliot would include birth control with likely no intentions of having kids of his own, as Samantha pointed out.

Chloe said...

I thought it was interesting that Margaret Sanger brought about the reversal of federal and state "comstock laws", which prohibited the distribution of information on sex, sexuality, and contraception. Yesterday we discussed how Sanger was considered a "eugenist"; however, I found that she opposed racial stereotyping. In 1927, the eugenics movement went to the Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell, which upheld that it was constitutional to involuntarily sterilize the developmentally disabled, the insane, or the epileptic. Sanger opposed this movement, although she did discuss certain elements of human progressiveness.

Olivia Celata said...

After reading this section in "The Waste Land," it seemed to me that the modern society in which the women are a part of expects all married women to satisfy their husbands. Also, when the friend asks Albert's wife, "what you get married for it you don't want children?" Eliot shows that society expected women to reproduce, almost like it was their duty. However, by Eliot introducing the idea of birth control, I feel that Eliot may be encouraging women to possibly take control of their lives.

chrissy said...

Eliot's inclusion of abortion, an issue I think will always be controversial and debated, is quite revolutionary for his time period. Birth control was only recently introduced to America by Margaret Sanger. As Julia pointed out, the tone of this conversation between Lil and the narrator is quite dismal, an indication that birth control is a negative thing. On the other hand, Eliot also exposes how trapped Lil feels. She has two options--stop having sex with her husband or to continue having children. To Lil, neither option is a good one. The abortion pills are the only way in which she can please her husband yet still escape the imprisonment her body would endure if she were to become pregnant.
This topic comes up in my paper...I actually just wrote about it. It's interesting to read yall's viewpoints!

Anonymous said...

Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I'd figured I'd ask.
Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a
blog article or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the same subjects as
yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
If you might be interested feel free to send me an email. I
look forward to hearing from you! Wonderful blog by the way!

Look into my homepage www.daishakorthbooks.Com