Prufrock and Modernism
Modernist literature is the representation of the societal crises and disorientation which was resultant of the burgeoning industrialisation and mechanisation of society in the 20th century. This instigated an evolution of thought which challenged the preconceived notions and boundaries enforced by society and gave rise to new perceptions in relation to the world. Modernism is marked by experimentation, and in particular the manipulation of form. This is evident in T.S Eliot’s dramatic monologue, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which depicts the modernist ideals of internal reflection and the fragmentation of thought, which further serves to mirror the fractured and chaotic nature of world.
The modernist ideal of representing the tumultuous inner workings of the mind conveys the alienation and displacement that an individual experiences in an industrial society. Eliot creates an artistic portrait of such a society through the depiction of the superficial bourgeois social values upheld by upper middle class society in the 20th century which undermine Prufrock’s ability and make him insecure. Prufrock’s suffocation with this society is evident in his emphatic evaluation, ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’. The symbolism of the coffee spoons implies an unsatisfying and carefully calculated life of relative insignificance and yet the query ‘so how should I presume?’ reflects his inability to break free of these shackles. The fragmented structure of the poem and the switch between active and passive personas, coupled with the use of rhetorical question ‘so how should I presume, communicates the irresolute nature of Prufrock’s mentality and highlights his inadequacy. Eliot also implements the modernist technique, the stream of consciousness to demonstrate the fact that Prufrock’s insecurity is the reason for his indecisiveness, ‘Time yet for a hundred decisions and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a...
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