Q. Attempt a critical appreciation of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prtlfrock
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was published in the 1917 volume of poems Prufrock and Other Observations. It is one of the best known of Eliot’s poems. It is a revolutionary poem, one of the best specimens of T.S. Eliot’s style, diction, technique and versification. The poem marks a complete break with the nineteenth century poetic tradition. The setting and the theme is urban, which reveals the ugliness of modern civilization .The poem is neither a love song nor a spontaneous outburst of the feeling of a lover for his beloved, rather it is an analysis of the mind of the lover who is unable to take a decision about making the proposal to the lady he loves.The lover is entirely ‘unheroic’, a bundle of hesitations and indecisions, who has not even the courage enough to approach his lady and propose to her, not to mention any love-making or seduction which is obviously beyond him. The poem portrays his hesitancy and indecision as also brings out the triviality, the hypocrisy, the emptiness, etc., of contemporary urban life. In fact the title of the poem a “love song” is used only in an ironical sense. Actually it is an anti-romantic poem, with a vein of irony throughout, the reference to women talking of Michelangelo being just one example of it.
Eliot’s epigraphs are not merely decorative, they are functional. They suggest the underlying idea of the poem.
The Epigraph to this poem is taken from Dante’s Inferno. Dante meets in Hell a character called Guido who agrees to tell Dante of his past only because he knows that, like him, the poet also is a lost soul, and so he will never return to earth to tell the people there of his confession. The Epigraph thus suggests a confession, but one in which there is something which is hidden from others.
An Internal Monologue:-
The poem is in the nature of an ‘interior monologue’. It probes deep into the sub-conscious of the protagonist, renders his actual thought process, and in this way highlights his neurotic nature and moral cowardice. It opens abruptly in a colloquial style, with the protagonist inviting you to go out for a walk with him “Let us go then you and I”. In a note Eliot explained that this ‘you’ is a friend of the male sex. But as both0 Elizabeth Drew and Williamson suggest the poem is not dialogue between two persons, rather it is an internal debate in the mind of Prufrock between two sides of his personality, and it is through this debate that the poet has thrown a flood of light on his spiritual degeneracy.
Development of Thought:-
The setting of the time is evening, which is like a patient-etherised. Prufrock is also like an etherised-patient. Conscious but conscious of nothing.Prufrock reaches the salon of a fashionable restaurant and indulges in day-dreaming. Prufrock is in no hurry, for he feels that there will be enough time at his disposal after, “the taking of a toast and tea”. Edwardian dandy, but all his dress fails to hide his physical decay:
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin.
He is conscious that as he will go down the stairs people will comment on his age—”How his hair is growing thin”—and physical decrepitude. His question seems to him as important and epoch-making as the very disturbing of the universe. Has he the courage enough to ask such a question? However, there is no hurry for decisions can be taken and revised and re-revised in a minute.
Prufrock has passed all his life in contemporary upper class society he knows everyone and everything that goes on in that society. Its triviality is vividly brought out by, “I have measured out my life with coffee-spoons”. Modern life is passed in giving “tea parties” in which there is much frivolity and flippancy but little sense. His life has been as useless as the butt-ends...
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