Modernism - Araby and the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Modernists aimed to reflect reality in ways more ‘real’ than conventional literature. The modernism movement was prompted by a widespread disillusionment in society that resulted from contextual events. This allowed an altered view of the world as fractured and chaotic, especially due to paralysis and alienation in modern society. This newly perceived reality is reflected through techniques of fragmentation in modernist works such as James Joyce’s short story “Araby” and T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, fundamental and far-reaching changes in society often made individuals feel wary and estranged from their surrounding world. These changes included urbanization, technological advancements, mass markets and growing populations. The shocking ferocity and futility and aftermath of World War I further contributed to social uncertainties and more pessimistic views on life and reality. Modernist writers frequently reflect uncertainties as paralysis in their works. In “Araby”, James Joyce manifests stagnation in the boy’s world and the boy himself. Firstly, setting and the motif of light and dark are utilized to portray Dublin as a centre of spiritual paralysis. Joyce creates a drab lifeless atmosphere in the boy’s world through musty imageries of “dark muddy lanes,” “dark dripping gardens,” “dark odorous stables,” and “ashpits”. The repetition of “dark” underscores the lack of spiritual light. Moral decay is more evident in the symbolic dead priest and the desolate garden. Metaphorical descriptions of the dead priest and his belongings provide a sense of a dead vital and spiritual past, and the “musty” air reflects stillness in the present. Combine, they imply that progress from this world of religious death is unlikely. The garden behind the boy’s home alludes to the biblical Garden of Eden with its “central apple tree” – a symbol of religious enlightenment. However, this tree is overshadowed by the lifeless...
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