Poet's poem loosely follows the legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King combined with vignettes of the contemporary social condition in British society. Poet employs many literary and cultural allusions from the Western canon and from Buddhism and the Hindu Upanishads. Because of this, critics and scholars regard the poem as obscure.  The poem shifts between voices of satire and prophecy featuring abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time and conjuring of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures. The poem's structure is divided into five sections. The first section, titled The Burial of the Dead introduces the diverse themes of disillusionment and despair. The second, titled A Game of Chess employs vignettes of several characters—alternating narrations—that address those themes experientially. The Fire Sermon, the third section, offers a philosophical meditation in relation to the imagery of death and views of self-denial in juxtaposition influenced by Augustine of Hippo and eastern religions. After a fourth section that includes a brief lyrical petition, the culminating fifth section, What the Thunder Said concludes with an image of judgment.