A Comparision of Tennyson's and Eliot's Dealing With Self Crisis in Poetry

A Comparision of Tennyson's and Eliot's Dealing With Self Crisis in Poetry

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Both Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” involve the narrator’s dealing with a self crisis, characterized by a state of despair at their current situation. Ulysses is not content with his return to kingship after the adventures of The Odyssey and Prufrock is self-deprecating, hating himself for his indecision and his perceived lack of worth. Yet while Ulysses resolves to take action to regain his former days of glory and adventure, Prufrock is so psychologically paralyzed that near the end of the poem he questions whether he “dare to eat a peach.”
In “Ulysses” the first two stanzas seem to be an interior monologue, with Ulysses going over his current situation and making the case. There are no references to other parties it is all describing his situation with lines such as “I have become a name;” (11). In the third stanza there is a possible switch in narration, as Ulysses says “This is my son, my own Telemachus,” as if he is presenting Telemachus to another person, though it is still possible he is looking at Telemachus and thinking or saying this to himself. In the final stanza there is a definite shift in narration; Ulysses is now entreating his sailors to come on a last adventure with him. He calls upon them: “My Mariners,/ Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me—.” He admits “you and I are old” before repeating his plea of “Come my friends” (56).
“The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” uses interior monologue, however Eliot presents his narrator’s thoughts through stream of consciousness, which allows the reader direct access to Prufrock’s thought processes. Each stanza is somewhat disjointed, jumping from biblical allusions and imaginary landscapes to ...


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...one point he even inquires into why he digresses so “Is it perfume from a dress? / That makes me so digress?” (65-66). While syntax serves to illustrate Ulysses sometimes wavering purpose, for Prufrock it highlights his tendency to overanalyze, question himself, and fail to arrive at an action.
Radically different individuals, Ulysses and Prufrock cope with their respective crises in nearly opposite ways. Ulysses follows a relatively straight-forward path of rejecting his barren life, recalling his past, evaluating Telemachus as a ruler, then planning his future adventure. Prufrock on the other hand is crippled by indecision. His narrative is non-linear and he fails to ask the “overwhelming question” (93). By the time he has grown old, this deficiency has reached the point where he questions whether he “dare to eat a peach?” (121), a pathetically mundane action.

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