It is obvious from this reading that 20th century writing is very different from Early American Writing and even Romantic age writing. This was harder for me to read and grasp a bigger idea from. I think it is important to keep in mind the idea of chaos and absurdity when reading this poem. It doesn't flow like we typically think of flowing but I think Elliot does have a bigger idea in mind even if it is not as explicit as the average reader would like.
Throughout this writing, people are constantly trying to discover themselves and fulfillment in other people. This is evident in all of the many unsuccessful relationships that take place throughout one example being the typist and the clerk. The typist ends up being thankful that it is over! Not exactly what we would define as a fulfilling relationship (lines 250-255). It is also evident in the bar scene with the two girlfriends. This scene is also a good picture of the marriage and gender roles that existed during the 1920s ("What you get married for if you don't want children?) line 164.
This poem also has a desperate, frustrating feel to it. I think this is how Elliot feels about the society he finds himself in. There doesn't seem to be any hope left in humanity post World War I. This is evident in the scene when he is discussing how there is no water to be found anywhere (lines 345-355). Desperation is also evident in lines 111-114 when he is describing the wealthy woman who is racked with nerves and hungry for attention from somebody.
Elliot's writing reminded me a little of Whitman when he wrote about the rock and the shadows (lines 25-30). Here, Elliot is utilizing nature to make a broader point which Whitman frequently did. I think Elliot is trying to say here that the present is something that is more than the past and the future (the shadows ahead or behind you). There is rest and peace in the shadow.
Overall, this poem has an air that is sad and depressing. This is supported by the death by water section in which Elliot reminds his readers that everyone is susceptible to old age and eventually death. Also in lines 175-185, Elliot writes about the riverside in order to express his view that the good times have already come and gone and they have left behind sadness and tears ("other testimony of summer nights").