J. Prufrock Essay, Research Paper
In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot uses allusions as well as imagery to develop his theme that life is too short to allow fear s hesitation to stop us from living true to dreams of happiness because we will all be judged in the end. This multi-layered poem is the internal monologue of the character J. Alfred Prufrock. Prufrock is a man who has let his daydreams cripple him with self-doubt and illusions of failure. He is a character who cannot reconcile his thoughts and understanding with his feelings and will. He allows his fears of being labeled to paralyze his actions. Prufrock s character seems too pitiful to be tragic. Eliot does not directly say what the character Prufrock is feeling; instead he utilizes the works of others, such as Dante, to clarify his thoughts and his universe.
The beginning of the poem is from Dante s Inferno. The original work describes a hellish place where spirits are in the forms of flames and the character is asked to describe his life. He tells his story only because he believes no one will hear it. By alluding to Dante s Inferno , Eliot has accomplished two things. The first was to set the tortured and torn tone of Prufrock s mind as well as the poem. The second was to hint at the theme; live true to ones self because we will not return to this earth.
Eliot chooses to portray Prufrock as having a fragile self-image. He does not feel that he deserves a lover. His self-image is show in lines 41 and 45 when he imagines that the women are remarking about how bald and thin he is. Lines 55 and 56 shown that he is being judged. I have known the eyes The eyes that fix you in a formulate phrase . He can tell that he is being labeled by the way people look at him. The thought of being labeled frightens him. This is further expressed by the imagery of him pinned and wriggling on the wall. He feels that he is being labeled a bug and being studied under the scrutiny of a microscope. The repeated line, women come and go talking of Michelangelo also indicates that he is being compared to someone that he has no hope of competing. The repetition of this line indicates that Prufrock finds this tedious because he has experienced it so often. Therefore, three words Among the porcelain adds a deeper layer to Prufrock s character. It also furthers to develop the theme that we must live true to ourselves because we are all judged sooner or later.
Time is of an essence in this poem as well. Prufrock realizes that time has caught up with him. He does however regret and accept the fact that he is a scared old man. He tries to be optimistic by saying, there will be time , but he knows he cannot escape his sad fate of loneliness. This idea is best expressed by the line But at my back I always hear Time s winged chariot hurrying near. This sentiment compliments the reference from Dante s Inferno. He is living in his own hell. It further expands the theme that life is too short to allow the fear of being judged to prevent us from living true to ourselves.
Eliot also uses sea imagery to evoke meanings that add to Prufrock s character as well as set up his last theme. The oyster shells , evoke the sense of an overwhelming many. The claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas” can be interpreted as Prufrock s feelings of insignificance among the many. The walk upon the beach suggest that he has given up his quest for love. He is content to linger alone. Till human voices wake us, and we drown refers to Prufrock s reality. He copes by living in a daydream, so when he is forced to deal with reality he is lost. The mermaids symbolize Prufrock s daydreams. They are extravagant, romantic, and enchanting. He speaks of the mermaids singing to each other. This helps convey the message that this dream world does not involve Prufrock. The line I do not think they will sing to me proves Prufrock does not believe he will ever be apart of this world. He accepts and realizes his destiny to live and to die alone. In Prufrock s mind women have become the mythical, unreachable mermaids. It is an ironic fit because Prufrock never attempted to chase his dreams however it does finalized the theme.
As in line 104, It is impossible to say just what I mean! , words cannot express all the feelings and idea s that Eliot s poem evokes. Like the magic lantern each allusion and image shines a new layer of light on the emerging theme that life is too short to allow fear s hesitation to stop us from living true to dreams of happiness because we will all be judged in the end.