TS Eliot's Prufrock
The ironic character of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," an early poem by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) in the form of a dramatic monologue, is introduced in its title. Eliot is talking, through his speaker, about the absence of love, and the poem, so far from being a "song," is a meditation on the failure of romance. The opening image of evening (traditionally the time of love making) is disquieting, rather than consoling or seductive, and the evening "becomes a patient" (Spender 160): "When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table" (2-3). According to Berryman, with this line begins modern poetry (197). The urban location of the poem is confrontational instead of being alluring. Eliot, as a Modernist, sets his poem in a decayed cityscape, " a drab neighborhood of cheap hotels and restaurants, where Prufrock lives in solitary gloom" (Harlan 265).
The experience of Prufrock is set against that of unnamed "women" (13), collectively representing womankind. Their unattainable status is represented by their constant movement- they "come and go"- and their "polite chitchat about Michelangelo, who was a man of great creative energy, unlike Prufrock" (Harlan 265). We cannot imagine that they would listen to any love song by Prufrock, any more than they would find his name or his person attractive. "A man named J. Alfred Prufrock could hardly be expected to sing a love song; he sounds too well dressed" (Berryman 197)."J. Alfred Prufrock" indicates his formality, and his surname, in particular, indicates prudery. The powerful metaphor, a visual image of the "yellow fog" (15) in the fourth stanza, represents the jaundiced environment of the modern city, or Eliot's "infernal version of the forest of Arden" (Cervo 227). The image is ambiguous, however, because Eliot also makes it curiously attractive in the precision he uses in comparing the fog's motions to that of a cat who "[l]icked its tongue into the...
Bibliography: Berryman, John. "Prufrock 's Dilemma" The Freedom of the Poet. Farrar: Strauss, 1976: 270-78. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski and Laurie Harris. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale, 1982. 197-98.
Cervo, Nathan A. "Eliot 's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock '". Explicator. Vol. 57, Issue 4, Summer 1999: 227. Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Literature and the Writing Process.
Elisabeth Mc Mahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1999. 577-80.
Harlan, Judith, and Kathleen McCoy. English Literature from 1785. New York: Harper, 1992: 265-66.
Miller, Vincent. "Eliot 's Submission to Time." Sewance Review (Summer 1976): 448-64. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski and Laurie Harris. Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale, 1978. 183-86.
Spender, Stephan. "T.S. Eliot in His Poetry." The Destructive Element. Cape, 1935. 132-52. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Robyn V. Young, Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale 1992. 159-62.
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