The Waste Land by Alan Paton


This study guide will help you analyse the text “The Waste Land” by Alan Paton. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Waste Land”
Author: Alan Paton
Published in: “Tales From a Troubled Land” (collection)
Date of Publication: 1961
Genre: Short Story

Alan Paton (1903- 1988) was a South-African author, but he is mostly known for his activism against the apartheid regime in South Africa which also led to an award being offered annually to non-fiction works – The Alan Paton Award. Most of his literary works are also related to social themes connected with racism.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


“The Waste Land” by Alan Paton is a third-person narrative with a storyteller who confines himself to the point of view of one of the characters, the older man. As a result, everything narrated is only what the characters knows, hears, sees and feels.

While the narrator’s knowledge of the old man is unlimited, his knowledge on the events and the other characters is limited to what the old man experiences: “He fell into some grotesque shape of wire; it was barbed and tore at his clothes and flesh.  Then it held him, so that it seemed to him that death must be near...”

Until the end, the narrator’s presence is not felt, his tone being detached. Though the account is in the third-person, we get the feeling that we are only experiencing what the old male character is experiencing, without any input from the narrator. 

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The Waste Land by Alan Paton

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