Psychoanalytic Criticism In The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

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T.S. Eliot is often considered one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th Century. Not only were his highly regarded poems such as “The Wasteland” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” influential to the literary style of his time, but his work as a publisher highlighted the work of many talented poets. Analyzing his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” with psychoanalytic criticism reveals several core issues in the speaker of the poem, and may reflect Eliot himself.
The first core issue present in the poem is a low self esteem or insecure sense of self. Most of the poem is centered around the speaker’s indecisiveness and low self confidence. An unknown and overwhelming question is introduced in the first stanza and is revisited later on through “A hundred indecisions. . . a hundred visions and revisions” (Eliot). According to the chapter on Psychoanalytic Criticism, “This core issue [insecure sense of
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There are several death related motifs present in the poem. For instance, the poem opens with a passage from Dante’s Inferno, foreshadowing the theme of death in the poem. The speaker says “I know the voices dying with a dying fall.” He also references Lazarus from the Bible, who was raised from the dead, further developing the death motif. The speaker also seems to be looking back on life, referring to past experiences and his aging, as if he believes his death is imminent. He seems to have an obsession with hiding his age. According to the Psychoanalytic Criticism Chapter, the greater our fear of something is, the greater our obsession becomes (24). The speaker's fear of death has lead him to wear clothes that are fashionable for young people, such as rolling his trousers, and goes to great lengths to cover his age in other ways, such as parting his hair behind to cover a bald spot. The last stanza of the poem has a rather depressing and sad ending, a result of fear of
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