To Say What You Mean

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Life presents us with different types of personalities. There are the leaders of the team, those willing to take the initiative to reach their goals. Opposite of them are those who stay in the sidelines, keeping to themselves and letting life create situations for them. In the two works that will be discussed, these two types of personalities are displayed in two characters. In T.S. Elliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the title character is overly insecure and is hesitant to approach women. Mel McGinnis, one of several characters in Raymond Carter’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is the opposite, declaring himself as the leader of his group of friends. Though there are similarities, the two are different in that, while internal conflict influences the way that J. Alfred Prufrock expresses his discomfort with love and himself, Mel McGinnis relies primarily on dialogue to relay his aggressive and confident personality with regards to life and love.

Mel’s relationships with Marjorie and Terri show that he has history, however Prufrock is not as seasoned, and this difference is expressed in Mel’s dominance over the conversation. At one point in the story, Mel takes control of the conversation and delivers a lengthy monologue about his perspective of love. Though he says at the that all of them are beginners at love, it is evident that his experiences with both his ex-wife and current wife prove this statement wrong in regards to him. Mel says, “I love Terri and Terri loves me… I have a hard time accounting for the fact that I must have loved my first wife too.” (Carver 679). Through this quote, McGinnis is dominating the conversation by discussing his past relationships in order to make ...

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...sing to each other, they will never give him a piece of their time. His agony of being alone until he dies is the same as Mel’s agony of having Marjorie constantly be a fixture in his life.

J. Alfred Prufrock and Mel McGinnis are very similar in their mindsets, but are different in the way that they present them. The two have one-set minds when it comes to love, revering their personal opinions above all. Things are also haunting them from their past and present, respectively: Mel by his ex-wife and Prufrock by the fear of being alone for the rest of his life. While Mel McGinnis is very experienced in the land of relationships, Prufrock is not as seasoned, a difference shown by McGinnis’s dominant personality. Rather than having a dominant personality and establishing himself as the leader of the group, Prufrock’s low self-esteem causes him to be very reserved.

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