The analysis of ”The love song of prufrock” by T.S. eliot Essay Sample
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The analysis of ”The love song of prufrock” by T.S. eliot Essay Sample
In his poem Eliot paints the picture of an insecure man looking for his place in society. Prufrock has fallen in with the times, and places a lot of burden on social status and class to determine his individuality. He is ashamed of his personal appearance and looks towards social advancement as a way to assure himself and those around him of his value and establish who he is. Through out the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, T.S. Eliot explores Prufrock’s conflict with society, love and self.
The issue of Prufrock’s place in society leads to an “overwhelming question…”(10), which is never identified, asked, or answered in the poem. This “question” is somehow associated with his social status, but both its ambiguity and Prufrock’s denial to even ask, “What is it?”(11) gives some insight into his state of internal turmoil.
Prufrock is beginning to feel especially detached from society and burdened by his awareness of it. He thinks “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”(73-74) Prufrock wishes instead that he could be a mindless crab, scurrying around the bottom of the ocean; another example of Prufrock’s impression of his position in society, rarely comparing himself to real people. In fact, in his dream sequence at the end when he imagines how his life might end up, he sees himself as an ocean creature, surrounded by mermaids “Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”(131). Eliot not only uses imagery here to create a picture of a headless crab scuttling around at the bottom of the ocean, but he uses the form of the poem itself to help emphasize his point here. The head is detached from the crab, and the lines are detached from the poem in their own stanza, much like Prufrock wishes his self-consciousness would just detach itself. These images represent Prufrock’s desire to be rid of his self-consciousness and possibly some suicidal tendencies which can be tied into just about all of the ambiguous questions Prufrock asks of himself throughout the poem.
Another example of Prufrock’s conflict with society is Prufrock’s dissatisfaction with his personal appearance. Not only is he unhappy with the way he looks, having “To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;” but he is constantly afraid of what others will have to say about him: “(They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’)”(41) And “(… ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’)”(44). Prufrock’s obsession with looks illustrate to us how much he wants to fit into society and how much his identity is rooted in what others think of him. Prufrock is insecure and frightened of peoples’ reactions to his balding head and slim, aging body. Unfortunately, his lack of confidence isn’t limited to his looks.
Through out the poem you can see Prufrock’s difficulty in communicating with other people – not surprising considering his extreme lack of confidence in his appearance. He is indecisive and unsuccessful in his attempts to communicate with other people, repeating “visions and revisions”(33) and “decisions and revisions…”(48). Eliot uses repetition here to emphasize the concept of Prufrock’s variations in behavior.
Prufrock as we can see is in a constant sate of internal turmoil. He seems at times to be asking if he should dare “and drop a question on your plate;”(30) meaning one of his “dares” could be something that he’d like to ask a woman but can’t; he also asks “Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?”(45-46). In this case Eliot exaggerates to give the reader the impression of the seriousness of Prufrock’s insecurities – they are his whole “universe.”
Once again, Eliot uses the device of uncertainty to reflect the internal struggle in Prufrock and lead the reader to ask himself again, What is the ‘overwhelming question’ that Prufrock is asking? Unfortunately even Prufrock himself doesn’t have the answer… even recognizing the issue itself is beyond the simplicity of his mind, which he confesses by saying “I am no prophet- and here’s no great matter;”(84). By downplaying the importance of the issue, Prufrock echoes his lack of self-worth. In fact, to Prufrock, the issue is extremely important – the fate of his life depends on it. His declaration that he isn’t a prophet indicates Prufrock’s view on his position in society, which he is as confused about as everything else.
Prufrock’s series of questions can also be tied into his unsuccessful attempts at relationships with women. His insecurities keep him from doing the things he wants to do; he feels inadequate and unable to express his true feelings to women, “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices/ have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?”(79-80). He knows what he wants to say, but doesn’t have the confidence or mental capacity to put his feelings into words. He compares himself to Hamlet, “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;”(111), who, in contrast, was able to express his feelings very successfully to his lover – an ability which Prufrock is envious of, characterized by his emphatic “No!” (111)
He is also second-guessing himself constantly throughout the poem: “Do I dare?”(38), “So how should I presume?”(54) and “Then how should I begin”(59) are all questions Prufrock repeats to himself during his monologue. His feelings of inadequacy toward women are not only related to his appearance and lack of mental strength, but to the passage of time and its effect on him.
Prufrock claims that “I have known them all already, known them all”(49) referring to the “evenings, mornings, and afternoons”(50) of his life which he has seen pass by, insignificantly. He also says “And I have known the eyes already, known them all”(55) and “I have known the arms already, known them all”(61) which illustrate his failure with and fear of women.
Through out the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, T.S. Eliot explores Prufrock’s conflict with society, love and self. Eliot’s portrayal of Prufrock, once again shows us how, dire Prufrock’s situation is. Prufrock’s lack of self-confidence leads to constant indecisions, his “overwhelming question.” Eliot creates the idea of Prufrock being caught with the problem of identity in the very beginning of the poem. Being the outsider that he is, Prufrock will not be accepted by society, that Prufrock is just out of reach of the group of people that he wishes to be associated with in life and love, but most likely his feelings of insignificance prevent him from associating with anyone at all.
The poem illustrates to us how Prufrock keeps assuring himself that, “indeed, there will be time”(26) to do all of the things he wants to do in his life, but first he must come to terms with his insecurities. However, his insecurities are related to his lack of confidence, so he is truly a tragic, doomed character. Eliot doesn’t give any sense of hope for him in the poem – he remains a doomed character until the very end. Prufrock even admits that he has “seen the moment of my greatness flicker,”(84).
Eliot disconnects Prufrock from the real world. Even though Prufrock’s fantasies to be a crab, swim with the mermaids, be young again like Lazarus and talk to women about Michelangelo with the composure and articulacy of Hamlet give him a detachment from his day-to-day worries about society, love, and self. He will never stop torturing himself trying to figure out that “overwhelming question.” The only hope that Eliot gives the reader out of this poem is the hope that we don’t end up like Prufrock.