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The Paralysis of Prufrock in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Essay

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Paralysis, the incapability to act, has been a key element of many famous literary characters. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the paragon of paralysis, unable to sort through his thoughts, Hamlet only makes one decisive action, at the end of the play. T.S Elliot’s transfers Hamlets’ paralysis in his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The name Elliot chose for this indecisive, timid man epitomizes his character as well as his flaws. J. Alfred Prufrock needs this ranting monologue in order for him to understand the severity of his paralysis and fear of women and society.
Elliot’s poetry is a melting pot of literary allusions and references. The first lines are directly quoted from Dante’s Inferno. Prufrock, as can be interpreted from these lines, is confined to what he feels is hell. The images of the city where Prufrock lives are dark and empty, the night sky looks "Like a patient etherized upon a table" (3), while down below barren "half-deserted streets" (4) reveal "one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants" (6-7). All of these images reflect some part of Prufrock’s personality. The “etherized patient” reflects his inability to act while the images of the city depict Prufrock’s loneliness.
The poem then switches to “the yellow fog.” The yellow fog seems to be associated with an animal, or perhaps Prufrock, as it rubs its back upon the window panes (15) … rubs its muzzle on the windowpanes (16)”. Unable to enter “the room where women come and go (13)”, instead, the animal lingers outside. Prufrock, for someone reason, is avoiding entering the room although he desires to enter.
Images and allusions are not the only features of “Prufrock”. The rhythm of the lines is deliberately irregular. Most of the time, Elliot...


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...ousness. Prufrock relates the women in his society to beautiful, vain mermaids who only sing to each other. The concluding stanzas of the poem display his unattainable and frustrated desire for all women. To him, he believes, they are inaccessible. Prufrock dreams about the mermaids until “human voices” wake him and he drowns deeper into his watery hell.
J. Alfred Prufrock is a man who has chosen to live in a world where only things he believes are true. He believes that there will be time for him to be with society, the women that he desires will all ignore him and instead speak of men that are young, tough and strong. Throughout the poem, Prufrock is ultimately searching for the meaning of his existence. The plethora of allusion that Elliot utilizes in this poem help to unravel the undermining message and thoroughly understand Prufrock’s paralysis.






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