Distress in The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock Essay

Distress in The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock Essay

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The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock - The Distress of J.Alfred Prufrock


The human psyche is divided into three distinct aspects: the Persona, the Shadow, and the Anima/Animus; at least, it is according to Jungian Psychology. Drawing heavily on the theories developed by Freud, Jung's psychological concepts tell us that if these three facets are not properly integrated - that is, if one of the three is overly dominant, or repressed, or all three are in conflict with each other - then an individual's energies - his libido - will be out of alignment, causing psychological distress and unconscious problems.

The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, if read Archetypaly, reveals to us such an individual. J.Alfred Prufrock, the nebbish little man that he is, has some very serious problems - he is extremely indecisive, obsessed with trivial details, and frets over inconsequentials ('Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?'); more importantly, he seems to have an inability to confront the opposite sex, choosing instead to develop elaborate fantasies in which to meet imaginary women - all of whom seem to be either cruel, vain, or sinister in some subtle way.

An archetypal analysis drawing upon Jung's theories seeks to uncover the reasons behind Prufrock's neurosis. The first line of the poem - 'Let us go then, you and I' - gives an immediate insight into Prufrock's problem: his psyche is out of joint. The 'You' and 'I' of the poem are two aspects of his personality: his Shadow and his Persona, respectively.

Prufrock is very much aware of the schism within his own mind. His Persona - the aspect of himself he presents to the social world - remains dominant most of the time. His Shadow, however, comp...


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...s earlier illness.

Unfortunately for Prufrock, this apparent cycle is entirely contained within a small portion of the whole. Prufrock participates in a greater cycle, but one that seems to end, not in life, or rebirth, but in a symbolic death. He is a crab, a '... pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas', a man who wakes... and drowns. His cycle ends negatively, without the rebirth. He never gets his act together, never integrates his personality properly, never stops being the sad little nebbish of a man that he is; the cracks in Prufrock are never mended.

-Michael J.Noakes

Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock ." The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume Two. Ed. M.H.Abrams, 6th Edition. New York: Norton, 1993. 2140-2143.

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