Comparing Joyce’s Ulysses and T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Comparing Joyce’s Ulysses and T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Comparing Joyce’s Ulysses and T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


In Episode 8 of Ulysses, Joyce sends Bloom and the reader through a gauntlet of food that enlarges one of the novel¹s main linguistic strategies, that of gradual digestion. While Episode 10 may seem like a more appropriate choice for a spatial representation of the city, this episode maps digestion out like Bloom wanders the streets of Dublin, with thoughts entering foremost through the body and exiting them. In T.S. Eliot¹s poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the stanzas deescalate the city from skyline to sea-bottom in accordance with the mock-hero¹s own inability digest thoroughly any complete thought all the way through.

Bloom describes the process of eating with realism appropriate to the task: "And we stuffing food in one hole and out behind: food, chyle, blood, dung, earth good: have to feed it like stoking an engine" (144-5). Indeed, this is the path words take in the novel; they begin in a pure form, as written on a page (such as Martha¹s "Are you not happy in your home you poor little naughty boy?" which, despite its impure implications, is at least black ink on white paper) and filters into every stage of Bloom¹s journey (as in Episode 8, 137). The gradual digestion of words fits with another of Martha¹s lines, the typographical error "I called you naughty darling because I do not like that other world" (131). These words become "worlds," carving out a space as they travel throughout Dublin with Bloom. Bloom tosses the "throwaway" into the Liffey, and its words sail down not only the river, but alongside Bloom, causing him trouble and marking him as a throwaway himself. Words often hint at their own creation or foreshadow another...


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...urface giddiness of "mermaids singing, each to each." Our paralysis in reading "Prufrock," from stanzaic symmetries ("And would it have been worth it, after all"/"That is not is, at all," used twice with minor variations) that indicate Prufrock¹s stalled action to the anatomization of pluralized body parts ("eyes"/"arms") that rest heavily on a local item while emphasizing its multitude and power, "Disturb[s] the universe" as much as Prufrock¹s own perambulations do, that is, not at all. He only sinks further down, drowning not only in other "human voices" but, more importantly, in his own constipation.

Works Cited

Eliot, T. S.. "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock." Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. 2nd Ed. Schlib & Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2003. 851-855.

Joyce, James. The Portable James Joyce, New York: Penguin Books, 1996

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