The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock Essay, Research Paper
?There is a difference between the way Prufrock sees himself, and the way the poem reveals him to us. He dramatises himself as a sensitive and slightly tragic figure; the poem exposes him as comic?. Does this correspond to your own reading of ?The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock??
In the poem ?The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?, Prufrock sees himself as a victim social status. He believes that he is constantly being analysed by others and that he has been alienated from society. However Prufrocks way of life is not comic, but is rather the opposite: in that he is insecure; unable to make clear decisions; melodramatic and reserved. It is clear that in order to get what he wants, Prufrock has to be realistic, accept his life and his personality.
In the poem, Prufrocks main interest lies in the upper class women, ?in the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo.?. He is also struggling to leave his previous life behind him, to join the more cultured and civilised society. The frequently repeated question ?How should I presume?? demonstrates that Prufrock believes he is attempting to presume a status which isn?t rightfully his. Thus he regards himself as a victim of social status, who is unable to alter his standing in English society. This view is also evident in the line ?No! I am not Prince hamlet, nor was meant to be;/ Am an attendant lord?, where Prufrock downsizes his role in society, saying that he is destined to remain a minor character, and is unable to take on a major role in society.
The metaphor ?when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,/ When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall?, suggests that Prufrock feels threatened by people, believing that they are constantly judging, analysing and categorising him, similar to an insect which has been pinned on a board for observation. Throughout the poem, Prufrock debates with himself wether or not he will ask one of the high-class women a question on the topic of his feelings of adoration for her. After much antagonising, Prufrock is unable to ask the question, as he is too afraid of the possible repercussions and the judgement which he might face.
One of Prufrocks main concerns is that he has been alienated from society and that he does not belong anywhere. This can be seen in the lines ?I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ scuttling across the floors of silent seas.?. Prufrock expresses a desire to become a crab, as they, too, are scared and often overwhelmed. In this quote Prufrock has even gone so far as to say that he is not human. Prufrock also describes himself as, ?Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;/ At times, indeed, almost ridiculous-/Almost, at times, the fool.? And believes that although he has opinions and knowledge, society has prevented him from expressing himself, by causing him to feel foolish when he does so. He is under the impression that he can only live peacefully in his fantasies, at least ?Till human voices wake us, and we drown.?, signifying that he is engulfed and suffocated when he returns to reality.
After reading the poem, a different side of Prufrock to the one he depicts is revealed. The ?real? Prufrock is insecure as he is unhappy with the life he has led, and is so worried about his image, that he fails to realise the more important values in life. Prufrock asks himself ?how should I begin/ To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways??. He believes that should he attempt to converse with the upper class women, he would not be able to tell them about his past life, as he believes it was unlike that of a decent, upper class man, and that the women would ridicule or reject him because of it. Prufrock also mentions that ?I have measured out my life with coffee spoons?. This signifies that he has broken down his entire life into small episodes, and individual experiences, comparing them to the lives of the upper class women. Yet he still feels as though his life is inadequate in comparison to theirs, just as a coffee spoon alone is inadequate for the taking of afternoon tea, as more utensils are required.
The second major element contributing to Prufrocks insecurity, is his obsession with image and appearance. The best example of his self-consciousness is found when he says ?My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,/ My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin-/They will say: But how his arms and legs are thin!?. No matter how hard Prufrock tries, he is always critical of his image-and believes that others will be too. It is for this reason that he ?prepares a face to meet the faces that you meet?, and uses it throughout the poem. In essence, he is pretending to be a different person in an attempt to boost his image.
It is clear that Prufrock is indecisive, as can be seen in the fact that he takes an abnormally long time to decide wether or not to ask his important question. He repeatedly asks himself ?Do I dare??, as he is wondering wether or not to ask the question. Prufrocks ambivalence is portrayed in the phrase, ?In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.?. The lines ?Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?? demonstrate the petty lengths to which Prufrocks obsession takes him.
The poem also reveals Prufrocks tendency to melodramatise his situation. ?Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?? is an example of this, as Prufrock likens a simple question to the disruption of everything. Whilst deciding wether to ask the question, Prufrock compares the risk associated with asking it, to an act of martyrdom, ?I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,/?I have seen my head?brought in upon a platter?. Once again, he likens his question to the disturbance of the universe when he says ?To have squeezed the universe into a ball,/ To roll it towards some overwhelming question?. Thus, he continually places over-emphasis on his dilemmas, to attract the pity of others.
The final revelation of Prufrocks nature is that he is reserved, and does not have the courage or the ability to speak his mind as he would like to. This inability is demonstrated in the lines ?It is impossible to say just what I mean!? and ?how should I begin??. Prufrock himself realises that he is lacking courage when he says ?Should I?. Have the strength? and ?I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, ?And in short, I was afraid.?.
Finally, the poem hints at the notion that Prufrock would have a better chance at success if he learnt to overcome his fears and accept himself as a person instead of trying to conform to the wishes and ideals of others. He is described as ?Deferential, glad to be of use?, similar to a tool, and choosing not to express his opinion on the events. The poem makes the reader reflect upon Prufrocks situation and realise that his problems may be overcome.
Prufrock sees himself as a victim of social status; believes that others are constantly judging him and that he is alienated from society. The poem reveals his true nature, in that he is the opposite of comic: insecure; indecisive; melodramatic and reserved. It is also evident that Prufrock can achieve success through acceptance of himself and of his life.
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