Human Insecurity in T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is an examination of human insecurity and folly, embodied in the title's J. Alfred Prufrock. Eliot's story of a man's "overwhelming question", his inability to ask it, and consequently, his mental rejection plays off the poem's many ambiguities, both structural and literal. Eliot uses these uncertainties to develop both the plot of the poem and the character of J. Alfred Prufrock.
The poem's setting is one that conjures up images of vagueness. It is filled with "yellow fog" and "yellow smoke", both of which suggest a certain denseness and haziness. Similarly, Prufrock is faced with another kind of mist - "perfume …show more content…
"You" is only featured in two distinct actions, being lead to an "overwhelming question" (ln. 10) and "The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase"(56). Both actions involve direct contact with others, in contrast with "I" who is far more introverted and introspective. This supports the idea of "You " being Prufrock's projected image, however, a vague "you" reflects Prufrock's own uncertainty.
The ambiguity of certain words in the poem adds to the aura of indecisiveness. The evening is compared to "a patient etherised upon the table". The word "etherised" means literally, to be anaesthetized; however it also suggests the word "ethereal" which means less real. The first definition implies a sense of numbness, while the second implies falseness; both are qualities that appear in the poem. The reference to being anaesthetized is reflected later on a description of the afternoon: "The afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! / Smoothed by long fingers / Asleep...tired...or it malingers (75-77)". This suggests that that sense of numbness saturates Prufrock's entire environment; it is also then coupled with the idea that this environment is also "less real".
Another word with dual meaning is in the lines "the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase / and when I'm formulated, sprawling on a pin...(56-57)". The word "formulated" is synonymous with "prepared" or "planned" the first time it is used, contrasting these "eyes" with Prufrock's own lack of
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot is a poem unlike any I have ever read before. The poem starts off with the speaker taking what seems to be a potential lover along for a walk. The speaker first describes their surroundings and says that “the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table” and that “the streets follow like a tedious argument”. The sky is described as someone who has been anesthetized, someone who can’t feel anything. The streets are like an argument, something that can tear two people apart. The similes used make the setting seem dark and dreary. The speaker then brings up that he has a question he wishes to
The “eyes” (55) and “arms” (62) that Prufrock claims to “have known” are synecdoches for women; since he does not say he is familiar with their hearts, which would metaphorically imply experience with their love, Prufrock only knows women physically. He gives one explanation for this by noting the “perfume” and “dress” (65) that make him “digress” (66) from presumably his goal: instead of fostering relationships, Prufrock focuses on sexual/sensual aspects. In spite of this, Eliot provides insight to Prufrock desiring more than physical intimacy through the repeated mention of meals: “toast and tea” (34), “tea and cakes and ices” (79), “marmalade” (88), “tea cups” (102); these references indicate a wish to no longer dine alone, and Prufrock saying, “Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me” exemplifies his aspiration for domestic life.
The reader can find the speaker relatable; Prufrock shows multiple sides to his character. In one way, Prufrock is trying to seem cool, calm, and collected; he wants the reader to think that he knows everything; however, the reader can tell that Prufrock is trying to be somebody he is not. Prufrock later lets his walls drop and he says that he has let “the moment of greatness flicker…” He is talking about his greatness; Prufrock wants his life to be stagnant, and with very little struggle. This means that his life will be complete boredom. I believe that people should take Prufrock’s life as a lesson of how not to live; his emotional distance reveals that he is a sad man and that life should not be motionless and focused on maintaining the status quo.
Throughout the entirety of the poem, Prufrock struggles with paralyzing inaction stemming from his self-doubt. This holds a large portion of Prufrock’s inability to gain clarity. An example of this self doubt is expressed when he stated, “[They will say; ‘how his hair is growing thin!’]... [They will say: ‘But
Images and allusions aren’t Prufrock’s only fragmented features though; Eliot also uses the rhythm, and the rhyme is irregular throughout this poem. Throughout the poem, the rhyming schemes differ and constantly changed and evolved. There are instances when it is an unrhymed free verse, and instances where it would go for a longer period of time, then to shorter periods. The rhyme scheme creates a chaotic feeling, as well as feelings of disorganization and confusion, just as the world Prufrock resides in, and it does a good job portraying the anxiety that is rooted in the social world. He is afraid to confront those talking pointlessly about Michelangelo as well as he is intimidated by the thought of engaging in a gathering, believing that “there will be time” (23), and that he has "time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions", indicating that his life and his social life is a bore, with repetitive routines that remains the same. Prufrock’s constant worrying is also shown in not merely the
The title is actually the only place where Prufrock’s name is mentioned – in the poem he talks about himself in the first person. Eliot is clearly poking fun of himself with this title – as a young man he signed
The monologue style of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is interesting because it doesn’t clearly identify whether or not the speaker is talking to another person or his inner self. A monologue is like a conversation, but uses the language of poetry. This particular dramatic monologue tells the story of J. Alfred Prufrock, a man who is so wracked with insecurity and worried about how others perceive him that he is afraid to live his life.
“Let us go then, you and I, (1).” We are being offered an invitation into Prufrock’s world. As you read on you see
Having decided not to try, Prufrock questions whether his efforts would have been worthwhile. He believes that he can not relate to the women that which he feels, 'It is impossible to say just what I mean!'; (line 104). He rationalizes his fear by imagining that his speaking to the women would not have achieved any real response. He further imagines the women saying, 'That is not what I meant at all, /
J. Alfred Prufrock constantly lived in fear, in fear of life and death. T. S. Eliot divided his classic poem into three equally important sections. Each division provided the reader with insight into the mental structure of J. Alfred Prufrock. In actuality, Prufrock maintained a good heart and a worthy instinct, but he never seemed to truly exist. A false shadow hung over his existence. Prufrock never allowed himself to actually live. He had no ambitions that would drive him to succeed. The poem is a silent cry for help from Prufrock. In each section, T. S. Eliot provided his audience with vague attempts to understand J. Alfred Prufrock. Each individual reader can only interpret these
Though he was a modernist I believe this poem is a reflection of what he saw during the Victorian period. He says, "Do I dare/Disturb the universe?" (Eliot, Longman 2419 ll. 45-46). He speaks here, not of the universe as you and I think -- a celestial body -- but of the universe in the sense of the Victorian period itself. The world where everything is a mask of propriety, manners, and tradition; this can be seen in his reference to the popular Victorian custom of afternoon tea, "Before the taking of tea and toast." (Eliot, Longman 2419 l. 34). A word or simple action could topple a system as balanced as this one and Prufrock struggles with the question, "Do I dare?" (Eliot, Longman 2419 l. 38). Does he dare to disturb the Victorian culture with what he has seen? His struggle is represented by the yellow smoke/fog. This represents
Eliot also uses syntax to establish thematic concepts. In stanzas 7 to 9, Prufrock muses about how he has “known them all,” (lines 45, 59,62) referring to the people and
The first setting is the sky described “Like a patient etherized upon a table” (line 3). This meaningful illustration can also be used to describe Prufrock’s current dilemma. His hesitance causes his inability to act just as a patient would be if he or she was etherized or desensitized. Eliot’s depiction of the city is also done in a creatively, symbolic way. In “An overview of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’”, Marisa Pagnattaro states that the setting contains a “seductive feline tone”. He uses personification to give a yellow fog catlike qualities such as “Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening / Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains” (Eliot 17-18). This enticing mood is used to pair with the women that Prufrock is interested in. T.S. Eliot ends his poem with another use of imagery by saying “Combing the white hair of the waves blown back / When the wind blows the water white and black” (Eliot 127-28). This detailed description of Prufrock’s fantasy helps the readers visualize what he desires. It is also ironic to see how different his whimsical dream is to his lonesome
Prufrock is a man with many contradictive and fragmental characteristics. While one part of him would like to shake startle these characteristics out of his life, he would have to risk disturbing his peaceful universe in order to do so. The latter part of the poem
If one applies the Freudian concepts of id, ego, and super ego to Prufrock’s troubled mind, a clear delineation of three sections is made in the poem. A short explanation of id ego and super ego is necessary in connecting them to the spaces in the text. Freud’s theory stemmed from a need to classify the parts of the ‘mind’. From this stems the organization of personality into three parts all of which are demonstrated in the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. The id is the impulsively and instinctually driven section of Freud’s personality complex and is based on seeking pleasure. An especially important factor for “Prufrock” is that the id encompasses is sexual desire. It is largely accountable for the unconscious mind. The ego is the most rationalized and outward facing of the personalities that creates a practical approach in