Anlysis Of

“Dream On Monkey Mountain” By Derek Wallcot And “The Love Song” By Alfred Prufrock Essay, Research Paper

The conscious and subconscious are two important themes in discussing both the 1919 poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, and the Derek Walcott’s 1967 play “Dream on Monkey Mountain.” In discussing the authors use of the conscious and subconscious in these two works many similarities and differences can be found.

In T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot startles the reader by using dramatic shifts in and out of the main character Prufrock’s thoughts (subconscious) and what is consciously going on. The Poem is about a timid and downcast man in search of meaning, of love, in search of something to break him from the dullness and superficiality that he feels his life to be. Eliot lets us into Prufrock?s world exploring his progression of emotion from timidity to self-disparagement and, ultimately, to despair of life. In this “Love Song,” Prufrock searches for meaning and acceptance by the love of a woman, but fails miserably because of his lack of self-assurance and because of his mouse-like meekness. Prufrock is a man for who, it seems, everything goes wrong, and for whom there are no happy allowances. In a very real way, Prufrock’s story is twentieth century mankind’s story, too. Eliot’s “Prufrock” is brilliant commentary on the fallenness, the emptiness, and the final despair of modern individuals.

The emptiness and the shallowness of Prufrock’s “universe” and of

Prufrock himself are evident from the very beginning of the poem. The

lines “When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient

etherized upon a table” (2-3) suggest a certain lifelessness. Likewise,

the women who “come and go / Talking of Michelangelo” (13-14) seem to

have nothing better to talk about, for when the women are revisited a

few lines down, they are still talking about the same dead artist

(35-36). The “yellow fog” (15), which by its color has connotations of

sourness, “curled once about the house, and fell asleep” (22). Prufrock

has already witnessed this dull event many times, saying: “I have

measured out my life with coffee spoons” (51). The evening “sleeps so

peacefully!” (75), cries Prufrock, and perhaps there is a tone of

bitterness in his voice. All this shows, in Prufrock’s case, the falsity

of the elite social existence, which is thought by some to be the

pinnacle of social involvement, and, in a broader context, what social

life is often like in our era.

In his doubting state, Prufrock compares himself to others. In line 94

he alludes to Lazarus. He uses this allusion to exaggerate his oldness.

Lazarus was an aged man who was restored from death by Jesus. Prufrock

considers his age to be a ‘death’ to his romantic zeal. Being raised

from the dead would restore the romance to his life. However tells

himself this is impossible.

The dramatic climax of this poem occurs in line 111. here, Prufrock

alludes to Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet. He uses this allusion to show

his inferiority, and his inability to declare his love. This is also the

dramatic climax of his poem, where all the internal debating comes to an

end. He finally gives in to his timid character and starts his journey

into a ‘dream world’.

For example in the last three lines, Eliot paints a contrasting picture of a serene ocean setting. Like line one, line 129 includes a mysterious second

person. Who is “we” referring to? It could be Prufrock and himself, him

and the mermaids, or all humankind. In line 130 the seaweed is red and

brown. This symbolizes the decaying of Prufrock’s heart. His present

dream-like state is destroying his heart. Only the return to reality can

stop this destruction.

Prufrock’s dream like state created by Eliot can be contrasted by Makak’s dream like state or sequence in the play “Dream on Monkey Mountain.” In the 1967 play by Derek Walcott The play beginning in the police station as Makak begs to be released, then moving in Scene One into an apparent flashback to the events that brought Makak there; or is this

his recounting of the dream? Then Part Two begins back in the jail, with the murder of Cpl. Lestrade and the flight – this seems to be a return to the present, with the re-establishment of the initial situation, but may not be; the epilogue again returns to the site of imprisonment, with Tigre and Moustique both restored to life, and Moustique’s more prosaic interpretation of Makak’s situation. This complexity may lead us to wonder, what is real? What is fantasy?

The dream works with various symbolic elements, as a political

allegory of the state of blacks in the Caribbean and generally in the

postcolonial world. They are cut off from their roots; hence Makak’s

determination to go back to Africa as part of his vision. But what

is the source of the vision? It is suggested at one point that it is the

whites – certainly Makak himself describes its origin from a woman in

white face, who also appears as the white mask produced by Lestrade and

also by Moustique. When Makak has a vision of the white woman in the

prison, Lestrade says “is this rage for whiteness that does drive

niggers mad.” Consider what it means if the source of “back-to-Africa”

movement is white, as in the U.S. during the 19th century (founding of


Cpl. Lestrade, who is of mixed race (mulatto), represents the

complicity of certain elements of the black community with the

colonizers, although he should be the ally of the other blacks. Hence

his verbal attack on the prisoners as “animals, beasts, savages,

cannibals, niggers” and his account of the “nigger” as a tribe of apes

that “lingered behind” when others began to walk upright, with straight

backbones. Lestrade has become alienated from his black self by his

service to the whites but is cured of that alienation when the others

make him strip naked; as Makak tells him, “They reject half of you. We

accept all.” But is he cured? His complicity with the whites turns into

a killing rage, and he finally even urges Makak to destroy the source of

the vision, because she is white, lest Makak become like Lestrade was,

i.e., “neither one thing nor the other.” Lestrade’s query after his

stabbing, “Did you feel pity for me or horror of them?” puts the

audience on the spot, forced to recognize the violence. And it is clear

that “native” violence becomes an excuse for further violence on the

part of the oppressors, as he takes out his rifle to go “hunting the


Makak’s vision leads to an attempt to regain his heritage, as the

white woman tells him that he is descended “from the family of lions and

kings.” Moustique is more practical, more concerned with making a living

than in following visions, and compares Makak to Don Quijote. Moustique

collects money for both of their nourishment, and does not fully

comprehend Makak’s revolution; or does he? He tells Makak that some day

he will have to sell the dream just for food and shelter, that love is

not enough. Lestrade’s view of Makak’s dream is political: he denies the

possibility of freedom, saying “It’s the slaves who believe in


Moustique is the first of several characters who appropriate the

vision to their own ends – a frequent event in any revolution. Moustique

impersonates Makak and uses the language of Afrocentrism to get money

from the people in the marketplace. But his betrayal of the vision is

itself betrayed, by Basil’s recognition that he is not Makak, which in

turn leads the people to reject the false prophet. He is killed, leading

to Makak’s vision of blackness, which Lestrade in the jailhouse trial

calls heresy. When Moustique reappears on Monkey Mountain, it is to

confront Makak with the perversion of his revolution into violence.

Souris and Tigre also seek to exploit Makak’s dream for their own

purposes, when Tigre urges the “madness” on Makak to bring him to kill

Lestrade and free them all. By causing Makak to shed blood, they do

succeed in transforming the nature of his vision and leading to its

probable failure. Their betrayal of the revolution, too, is bound to

material needs.


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