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Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Poem Essay

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Updated: Aug 21st, 2020

Introduction

Written by T. S. Eliot, the poem “The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock” allows the reader to eavesdrop on the inner consciousness and thoughts of Alfred Prufrock. Eliot portrays Alfred Prufrock as a middle-aged man undergoing a period of distress due to his shyness, which makes it difficult for him to face women. However, it is clear that his distress is not caused by his inner feelings, but due to acknowledgement of his aging. He is afraid of the society’s perception of what a man’s life that is ending should look like. Prufrock seems to have a problem of defining his appropriate place in the society. He is not sure of where he should be, what he should do, or what he should be doing. With Eliot’s description of Prufrock’s thoughts and consciousness, the reader observes that Prufrock’s personality and character are a representation of what most people experience as they advance towards old age.

Character analysis

Throughout the poem, Eliot has portrayed Prufrock as a person with many character traits. The poet further portrays Prufrock as a person whose concern is time and its effect on his relationship with people, especially females in his society. He is constantly aware of the flaws of human aging, which in turn builds an attitude of disorientation. Eliot has used several symbols and phrases to describe some emotional and psychological characteristics of Prufrock. It is evident that these traits are rooted in Prufrock’s physical appearances because he is aware that people are likely to judge him based on his age. For instance, he says “…with a bald spot in my head… the people will say ‘how now his hair is getting thin’…” (Eliot 23). Therefore, the reader notes that Prufrock’s main problem is how people will describe his aging body.

The personality traits of Alfred J Prufrock are an important topic of debate in regards to the analysis of the poem by Elliot. The poet displays Prufrock as a man with more than one personality. For instance, Eliot uses the pronouns “let us go then”, “you, and me”, which shows that there could be two different personalities portrayed by Prufrock (Eliot 23). On one side, one personality urges Prufrock to participate in the social events, thereby disregarding his aging self and the people’s perceptions of his age. On the other hand, another personality displays Prufrock as a feckless dilettante who does not accept himself and fears social rejection due to his aging body. It is also arguable that Eliot’s use of the word “you” could represent the reader rather than Prufrock himself.

Eliot successfully brings the reader close to Prufrock’s thoughts, which makes the reader understand his feelings. The images of being involved in social functions oppose those of fear and paralysis, which seems to confine Prufrock in his house. It is not possible to tell whether Prufrock is even able to leave his house because the personality that asks him to avoid mixing with people seems to be stronger than all the other personalities. As the images of involvement collide with the images of fear and paralysis, Eliot successfully develops a framework that allows the reader to understand the characters of Prufrock.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is quite clear that Prufrock’s character is marked by fears of old age. While he is aware that he should participate in social events, another personality tells him that the people will judge him based on his looks and age. The conflicts between the two personalities are deeply rooted in his thoughts to an extent that we are not able to tell whether Prufrock is able to leave his house or he remains indoors.

Works Cited

Eliot, Thomas S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 6.2 (1993): 12-28. Print

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IvyPanda. "Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Poem." August 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/eliots-the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-poem/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Poem." August 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/eliots-the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-poem/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Poem'. 21 August.

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