The poetry of the modernist movement is characterized by an emphasis on the alienation of the individual from the broader community in which he or she exists. In the works of T. S. Eliot, this alienation is expressed as a symptom of spiritual and moral decay within communities, societies, and entire civilizations. Eliot’s modernism, which was strongly influenced by his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism, is a harsh critique of the pervasive self-obsession of the modern secular world.
In any discussion of modernist poetry, it is crucial to remember that technology was advancing at a rapid pace during the beginning of the twentieth century. Mechanical inventions, from electric lights and motorcars to indoor plumbing, had brought the standard of living in Western cultures to unprecedented heights. At the same time, however, a generation had witnessed the cataclysmic carnage of World War I. The “war to end all wars” introduced mankind to machine guns, tanks, and poison gas. The same technology that had supplied comforts to civilian life had also killed millions in a conflict over scraps of land. Modern man entered the 1920s shell-shocked and questioning what human life was really worth, since it had been proven to be so disposable.
In a poem written at the beginning of World War I, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," T. S. Eliot expresses modern man’s sense of existential isolation, and scorns the narcissism of the age, which he sees as a principal cause of this isolation. The very title of the poem is a grotesque joke. “J. Alfred Prufrock” is an unlikely appellation for one who would sing a love song. The name connotes images of a pedant in a stuffy ...
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...e has failed to instill values in its members, so individuals have retreated within themselves. The ego has become our idol. The problem with egotism, though, is not only that it is seen as evil in traditional Christian theology, but that it is useless to a person who has an inferiority complex. Prufrock, the quintessential “modern man,” clearly has an inferiority complex because he constantly requires validation from outside himself. His egotism, therefore, is impotent, as is the value system on which it is based.
Cousineau, Thomas J. Lectures on T. S. Eliot. Sept., Oct. 2005. Washington College, Daly Hall, Room 106.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. 3rd ed. Ed. Jahan Ramazani, Richard Ellmann, and Robert O’Clair. New York: Norton, 2003. 463-466.
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- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot The poetry of the modernist movement is characterized by an emphasis on the alienation of the individual from the broader community in which he or she exists. In the works of T. S. Eliot, this alienation is expressed as a symptom of spiritual and moral decay within communities, societies, and entire civilizations. Eliot’s modernism, which was strongly influenced by his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism, is a harsh critique of the pervasive self-obsession of the modern secular world.... [tags: Love Song Prufrock T. S. Eliot Essays]
1537 words (4.4 pages)
- T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” draws attention to the idea that time is of the essence. On the surface, Prufrock is portrayed as a man who is incapable of making decisions and lacks self-confidence. This is evident through his passive nature, where he continuously delays having to talk to women because he believes there is enough time. Written in the era of modernism, the reader is capable of unraveling that the poem’s true purpose was not only to show Prufrock’s inability to make decisions when it comes to love, but to show the desolation that one faces in times of a modernistic transition.... [tags: love, loneliness, mind, spirit]
916 words (2.6 pages)
- Modernism is by no means easy to define. In fact, no one is exactly sure if the movement has even ended yet. But that’s befitting of the period, as well as the pieces of literature that serve to define Modernism. Two pieces, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and James Joyce’s “The Dead”, are epitomes of this modernism. In both, the main characters are paralyzed by an inability to communicate, even while speaking. Whether through Prufrock’s musings concerning love life, or Gabriel’s inability to evoke certain feelings out of his wife, both men experience this effeminization of the intellect and communication.... [tags: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Dead]
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- Eliot's Inferiority Exposed in Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Sweeney Among the Nightingales "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" tells the story of a single character, a timid, middle-aged man. Prufrock is talking or thinking to himself. The epigraph, a dramatic speech taken from Dante's "Inferno," provides a key to Prufrock's nature. Like Dante's character Prufrock is in "hell," in this case a hell of his own feelings. He is both the "you and I" of line one, pacing the city's grimy streets on his lonely walk.... [tags: Love Song J. Alfred Prufrock]
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