Introduction to Poetry
20 September 2012
“For I have known them all already, known them all:” (Eliot 49). To me this line defines the mood for the entire poem, it is such a simple statement, yet at the same time a deeply powerful and complex one. What is there left to do, what great adventures left to take, or great deeds left to be done. As Prufrock becomes and old man “I grow old…I grow old” (Eliot 119) he is searching for anything left in his life, some meaning, some purpose, something to inspire him. And honestly who has not been lost, searching for the meaning of the next day a purpose to get out of bed or go to work.
Throughout The love song Prufrock speaks of things he has done and seen but nothing of what he will do. It is as if he no longer desires to explore the world around him, as he has seen it all; he has lived his life, loved his women, made and spent his fortune and seen the world. Prufrock reminds me of a man depressed, lost and searching. It feels as if at one time he was on top of the world, young, wealthy, loved and with a sense of direction. As he ages his confidence wanes he becomes self-conscious “they will say: “How his hair is growing thin!” (Eliot 44) a confident would not concern himself with what they would say. As we age things obviously change and Prufrock seems to have little to fall back on that many aging men do. He seems to have no family, and no further drive or ambition.
Do not get me wrong here though Prufrock is not complaining, especially because the entire poem takes place in his mind. He simply seems to be taking stock of his life, his experiences he is introspective but in a way it seems he is speaking to others, giving advice. The line from Dante’s’ Inferno in the epigraph “but since from this depth none ever returned alive” (Myers 495) seem to refer to the fact that he may be speaking with someone else, sharing his experiences of live because he knows they are in the same Hell as he. This was a very confusing concept for me in the poem. How could he possibly be giving advice as it would seem from the preface, but the entire poem be spoken in his head?
This duality of the poem left me wondering if maybe Prufrock was so detached from the world that he was in fact speaking to himself. Not in a way that many of us do but as if he truly sees a separation within himself and is speaking to that other portion of his psyche. We all understand that aging is a part of life that all of us must experience, we are all in that Hell, that cage, that cycle that can only be broken by death. Is it possible that he is only speaking to the part of himself trying to cling to his youth, that portion trying to convince his older, wiser part that knows his limitations no longer having the energy and tenacity of a youthful man?
Even with the understanding he has acquired through his years of life, Prufrock has no answer for the question posing him now. “What is he to do now, with the time he has left?” He knows there will be time for whatever it is that he is called to do “Time for yet for a hundred indecisions” (Eliot 32), but what is it he should do with what time he has left in his life. To me it seems, as if not knowing is the most troubling thing for Prufrock. He strikes me as a man that has been in control and lived a meticulously planned life. Now to be faced with the unknown, a possibility of failure, or mistake as he continues his journey into something he can’t plan seems simply unbearable.
As the Love song progresses Prufrock’s tone changes “Let us go then you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky” (Eliot 1,2) Prufrock seems here to be positive and have some motivation. However as the poem progresses it seems as if he begins to regress and remember the things he has once done in his life “I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker” (Eliot 84). By the end of the poem however he no longer seems have the desire or...
References: Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Poetry: an introduction. 6th Ed. Michael,
Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. 494-498. Print.
Sward, Robert "A personal Analysis of 'The Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. '" Poetry: An
Introduction. 6th ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin 's: 2010. 505-509.
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