T.S Eliot’s poetry masterpiece, The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock, follows the compos mentis experience of a man named Prufrock. Eliot’s work laments the corporal and intellectual inertia that deprives Prufrock opportunities in life; through the recurrent theme of lustful love unaccomplished. The use of fragmentations and disconnected devices are applied to create a sense disruption to mental focus, and to avoid conforming to a nihilistic style.
Eliot attracted fame was initiated from his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), which is seen as a the chef d'œuvre of the Modernist movement. Although the character Prufrock gives indication that he was middle aged, Eliot actually wrote most of the poem in the 1990s when he was himself twenty-two. Its now-famous opening lines, comparing the evening sky to "a patient etherised upon a table", were considered with a sense of dismay and element of offensiveness, especially at a time when Georgian Poetry (anthologies showcasing the work of a school of English poetry that established itself during the early years of the reign of King George V of England) was greeted for its derivations of the 19th century Romantic Poets - artistic, literary, and intellectual movements such as that of Caspar David Friedrich.
Before understanding the concept of fragmentation, it is crucial to appreciate that the poem's structure was heavily influenced by Eliot's extensive reading, primarily, Dante, but also referring to various literary works by the French Symbolists arts movement. The epigraph at the very beginning of the poem is taken from Dante’s Inferno (XXVII, 61-66) and translates to:
"If I but thought that my response were made
to one perhaps returning to the world,
this tongue of ...
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...o another feature used by Eliot. From a contextual background of the author, Eliot continued his interest in fragmentation throughout his career. The Love Song of Alfred J. Purfrock undergoing fragmentation of mental focus and imagery, uses bits and pieces of formal structure to suggests that disconnection, although anxiety-provoking, in spite of everything, productive; had the poem been composed purely in free verse, the work would have seemed much more nihilistic and rejecting all moral principles in the idea that life is meaningless.
Based on the kinds of imagery Eliot paints with the use of fragments and disconnection, it also suggest that something new can be made from ruins: The series of hypothetical encounters at the poem’s centre are recapitulated and discontinuous but nevertheless lead to a sort of dark epiphany rather than just leading us without purpose.
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