Prufrock Essay, Research Paper
T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is the interior monlogue of a truly tragic character. It is interesting that Eliot presents the downfall of a man in such a light and humerous manner. The beginning of the poem is very light-hearted as we see an old man trying desperately to escape the effects of aging. This playful tone is evident through Eliot s use of lyrical rhyme and comic imagery. As the poem progresses there is a shift in tone that reveals a much darker nature. The lyrical rhyme is interrupted and the sorrowful imagery creates a somber tone. It is the contrast of these two natures that reveal the tragedy of Prufrock.
Prufrock is not confident with himself mentally or his appearance. He is terrified of what will occur when people see his balding head or his slim and aging body. He believes everyone will think he is old and useless. They will talk about him behind his back.
[They will say: How is hair is growing thin! ]
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!"]
This insecurity is definitely a hindrance for him. It holds him back from doing the things he wishes to do. This is the sort of characteristic that makes Alfred into a tragic, doomed character. However, the imagery here is presented in such a way that the reader cannot help but laugh at Prufrock s preoccupation with his appearrance. It is almost inevitable that the reader will picture an old man that is desperately trying to comb over his bald spot and dress the part of a dashing young man. The rhyme scheme creates a lyrical song reminiscent of childhood that allows the reader to find humor in Prufrock s predicament.
While lightening the perspective of the reader, the rhyme scheme Eliot uses in this poem also depicts the disenchanted and confused mind of the narrator. The poem is written using a non-uniform meter and rhyme. Various stanzas are not of uniform length. This method is used to represent the mood and feelings in the verse. By not strictly adhering to a form, Eliot allows the reader to infer that perhaps this tragic situation should not be taken so seriously. This irregularity of form could also be a way to remind the reader that these are the thoughts of a man. This is Prufrock s interior monologue and as it is clear that he is not in the soundest of mindframes it would make sense that this irregularity would be present. His thoughts lead to ambiguity such as at the start of the poem. “There you go then, you and I,” This could be referring to Prufrock and himself, or Prufrock and his lover. It seems, however, that it is indeed himself he is addressing which again reminds the reader to remain light-hearted.
J. Alfred Prufrock’s self esteem affects his love life greatly. The woman he is in love with is younger than he is and this distresses him. He does not believe that younger women could possibly accept him or find him attractive. Expressing any kind of affection to her is awkward and difficult. Prufrock knows what he must say but cannot bring himself to say it. “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,/ Have the strength to force the moment to it’s crisis. The playful rhyme makes it so difficult for the reader to take his plight seriously. This also becomes humorous as Prufrock does just that. He wishes greatly to express his affection but it becomes suppressed within him. He compares himself to Lazarus who was an aged man restored to life by Jesus. He feels that it will take a miracle to make him feel young again. Prufrock sees his age as the end of his romantic zeal. These dilemmas are devastating to him; they haunt him and overwhelm him.. He strives to achieve something that is impossible for him to attain. The reader finds humor in the torment that Prufrock brings onto himself as he struggles to capture something he would be much happier without.
Prufrock s troubled mind eventually begins to compare himself to Prince Hamlet which in itself is a ridiculous comparison. The reader realizes that he is more like Polonius before he does. “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;” This is where he finally begins to see his foolishness that the reader has recognized all along. Of course, Eliot has thrown in a few hints to help us out. He finally gives up the ridiculous notion of attempting to be something he is not, Prince Hamlet, and decides to accept his place in society and live life the way he should. It is ironic, however, that it took a comparison to a truly tragic character to recognize his own foolishness.
After that stanza the poem takes on a more solemn tone as he resigns to the realization that he is in fact an old man. The playful rhyme is interrupted and abruptly broken as he considers the mermaids and decides, I do not think they will sing to me. Once the reader has reached this point of the poem they begin to see the tragedy of J. Alfred Prufrock. When one considers that after resigning to the fact that he is old and that he does indeed have the time to consider, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I Dare?” the comic imagery of “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;” begins to darken. His eternal dilemma is characterized by his belief that there will be time to consider everything. Suddenly this image reveals his obsession with the passing of time instead of a silly old man leaning over a coffee can.
Fantasizing of a world where these problems do not exist is a pleasant daydream for Prufrock. He imagines the peaceful world under the sea .This shows the internal conflict still occurring within him. Even though he has overcome his problem with his love life, he still has many other worries to contend with. The mermaids are singing beautifully, but in his opinion, they cannot possibly be singing for him. His insecurity is still present and seems incurable. His fantasy world is brought to a crashing halt easily. “Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”(131) His only happiness can be found in daydreams and can be destroyed easily as such. Although giving him temporary relief from the pressures of his life, this dreamlike state is destroying his heart and only returning to the real world will save him.
In Elliot’s masterpiece “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock,” as time passes so does the human spirit of the narrator. His heart decays by the moment. Even within his fantasies he is tortured by the ever-present problems which plague him throughout his life. He can’t even see the point in expressing his love because of the fear of being rejected. Elliot’s depiction of the worries of aging is a major aspect incorporated into the poem. Although Prufrock is a man of knowledge and society he is still a misfit because of a little characteristic he can do nothing about. Age kills us all, but for Prufrock it has already killed him.