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The story of Tiresias, a mythical figure, is narrated by Ovid in his ‘Metamorphoses’. He lived in the time of King Oedipus in Thebes. Once, while going through a forest, he saw two serpents mating together. When he hit them with his stick, they cursed him. As a result, he was transformed into a woman. After seven years he saw another pair of snakes in copulation. This time he was also cursed by them and transformed into a man again. Thus he acquired experiences of both the sexes. Later on he was asked by Zeus and his wife Hera, during their quarrel with each other, as to whether man is more passionate than a woman. Siding with Zeus, Tiresias, declared that woman was more passionate than man. Being angry with him goddess Hera cursed him with blindness. But when he prayed to Zeus for mercy, he was awarded the gift of prophecy. 

According to Eliot’s own analysis, Tiresias is the central character in The Waste Land, and what Tiresias sees is the substance of the poem. Tiresias belongs to the past and the present. He is a link between the waste-land of King Oedipus and the waste-land of modern civilization. According to Eliot all the other characters in the poem merge into Tiresias. If all the men blend into one man, and all the women into one woman, and sexes meet in Tiresias, then Tiresias himself a condensed history of man. Therefore, Tiresias provides an aesthetic unity and continuity for the poem in addition to functioning to unify past, present and future. 


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