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“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. Elliot Essay

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2020

Introduction

Thomas Stearns Eliot is a famous American-British writer who represents modernism. His poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is considered to be a masterpiece by the majority of the critics. Still, some of them did not see anything worthy in the writing and believed Prufrock to have nothing common with poetry. Due to such contradictions, this work was chosen as the one that should be analyzed. Even though the poem seems to puzzle the readers and looks like a mixture of incomprehensible thoughts, Eliot showed in it how a person perceives the world, referring to the stream of consciousness and focusing on the most actual issues.

Analysis

When considering a piece of writing, it is important to pay attention to the very title, as it carries the message, which the author wants to deliver to the readers. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock presupposes that a narrator is a man, whose name is J. Alfred Prufrock. The text is supposed to be his love song, which occurs to be really so, as it has repetitions, rhyme, and rhythm. A song is a flow of emotions that a person experiences, they are gathered and turned into words so that the author gains an opportunity to share them with others. Thus, it can be concluded that the poem expresses Prufrock’s feelings and emotions related to the relationships with the opposite sex.

Being written before the blossom of modernism, the poem occurs to be its great representative, written in a stream of consciousness, which became rather popular in the 20th century. This narrative mode allowed Eliot to reveal the mind of a person and present the thoughts Prufrock has directly, without any adaptations. Whereas, on the one hand, such kind of narration is highly sincere and straight-forward, on the other hand, the readers can’t help feeling they lack the relevant background for the complete understanding of the described events. Thus, the narrator makes a series of implications that are supposed to be clear to him and his beloved – the women that speak about Michelangelo; the dinner table served with tea and marmalade. Due to these signs, the readers feel they become unintentional observers of the very intimate and private scenes, they peep into the most secure corners of the narrator’s mind.

As any poem written in “the stream of consciousness” style, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock primarily influences the readers’ emotions rather than their minds. It seems that Elliot does not provide all the details of this story because he is sure that all the necessary facts can be perceived empirically with the help of the powerful metaphors and other stylistic devices. One of the most frequently used stylistic devices is, certainly, the repetition. Thus, one is likely to come across the word “yellow” almost in every quatrain. Nevertheless, it is not the bright and cheerful color one might initially image – here, this adjective is applied to rather gloomy notions:

“The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes” (Eliot, 10)

Another symbol that seems to be of the key importance for the author is the concept of time. Throughout the entire poem, Prufrock keeps repeating that “there will be time” that sounds like an excuse for the man’s indecisiveness and inactivity (Eliot, 11). Every new line begins with a promising appeal for changes; however, by the end of the quatrain, the narrator is back to the passive and pessimistic state.

One of the most peculiar features of the relevant poem is its tense character. Unlike other literary works, it lacks an abundance of action or a precise plotline; meanwhile, the reader can easily follow all the stages of a classical climax story. The climatic development is, to a great extent, made possible thanks to the extensive usage of the rhetoric questions. This powerful device of engaging the questions that require no answers but sound more like an appeal for help has a very impressive impact on the reader. The more the narrator repeats “Do I dare?”, the more helpless and lost the reader feels (Eliot, 13). Elliot uses this device in order to show the secret concerns of the main character. Whereas the surrounding environment seems to be relatively calm, the inner state of Prufrock is close to hysteria. This assumption is proved by the climax of the poem, when the narrator seems to be most desperate, comparing himself with Hamlet and arriving at the gloomiest verdict:

“At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.” (Eliot, 15).

What is, probably, most curious about the following poem is that, despite the fact that it is called The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there is a little description of the object of Prufrock’s affection. Thus, one might find some hints like “long fingers” and “arms that are braceleted and white”, but the classical portrait is not provided (Eliot, 12). One of the most evident explanations of this phenomenon is, certainly, the style of the poem that does not imply detailed descriptions of the characters. Meanwhile, Prufrock manages to tell the readers quite a lot of facts about himself including his age and his manner to dress. One might suggest that Eliot, in such a manner, tried to show how obsessed the man is with his own feelings and worries, how little, he, in fact, cares for the object of his love. All that happens around him seems to be concentrated on the sufferer, even nature seems to resonate with his moroseness – “the wind blows the water white and black” (Eliot, 15). The woman, although she is supposed to be the primary reason for Prufrock’s misery, is depicted as an abstract object, as a symbol that has little to do with reality.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one must admit, that in spite of the fact, that the “the stream of consciousness” style is widely criticized by literature critics, one should admit that this manner has a series of benefits. One of its major advantages is the impressiveness of the emotional appeal – the lack of the logically-built structure makes the narration incredibly tense as the reader does not what to expect in the next line. The abundance of symbols and signs, in its turn, opens up unlimited opportunities for one’s imagination. Due to the lack of precise details, one is enabled to create the background on his own and to decide on the potential outcome as well. Finally, one can’t help admiring the unsurpassed talent of the writer who skillfully uses the powerful stylistic devices, thus demonstrating the excellent command of the poetic language.

Works Cited

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot, Montreal: Faber & Faber, 2011. Print.

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