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Essay The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

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Passive Lovers


T. S. Eliot was the dominant force in twentieth-century British and American poetry. With poems such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, he introduced an edgy, disenchanted, utterly contemporary version of French Symbolism to the English-speaking world. Most poets recognize that in producing a sensational poetic work, many concerns arise with the use of various literary tools to convey ideas, opinions or simply an observation. Through vivid imagery and metaphors, TS Elliot in his “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” delivered readers the thoughts and emotions of a tormented character J. Alfred Prufrock and also reflected self-debasing nature of a passive lover’s effort that kept deteriorating till it finds hellish discomfort in isolation.

As a poet explicates an event in poetry, he does his best to capture the audience, to entertain the reader. The reader must be drawn into the situations of the event and be able to form opinions as he/she goes along. The author wishes to bring to mind certain emotions from the reader, certain feelings and understandings from the characters of the story. Elliot’s sensational poetic work “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” embraces that idea and provides information by symbolic representation, and also enlightens the audience with experiences that fails to reach them

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?


Elliot throughout the poem addresses the longing for companionship Prufrock seeks as he engages with the women of the society. The passive behavior in young middle aged men still exists today but Elliot‘s poem re-presents it in a way that is still refreshing and re-enforcing to the modern reader. In the first line of the above stanza his persona represents not him but his observation of what inner psychological conflicts middle aged P...


... middle of paper ...


...te and bare” (55) again subtly indicating the character’s desperation, perversion and exhaustion in matters of the heart.



Finally Prufrock has a series of questions giving an open view to his unsuccessful attempts at women. His insecurities keep him from doing the things he wants to do and unable to express his true feelings to women. Prufrock ponders, “Should I begin” “Should I then presume”, and seems to know what he wants to say, but doesn't have the confidence to put his feelings into words. He constantly self-introspects throughout the poem:” Do I dare?”(38), “So how should I presume?”(54) “Then how should I begin” (59) and the questions further drown him in his depths of isolation. Prufrock agonizes over his social actions, worrying over how others will see him. He thinks about women's arms and perfume, but does not know how to act. The day passes at a social engagement but he cannot gather the strength to act, and he admits that he is afraid. With further self torture through the poem, Elliot at the end gives us readers a caution to not see life go by without taking the risk of asking and approaching the challenges that will eventually place our significance in society.


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