Pericles once said "Be ruled by time, the wisest counselor of all." This ruler of the past might not have had the technology of today, but he did not need it to recognize time’s domineering nature over all mankind. No matter what advances man makes, he will never be able to slow down time nor stop it completely; nor it appears will he be able to leap into the past or the future. Time is one thing that man cannot manipulate, instead it manipulates man. No poem better illustrates this point than T.S. Eliot’s "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Prufrock is trapped by the conundrum of time in that no matter what he does, he always regresses to his starting point. His life has been reduced to a diurnal cycle of monotonous chores that seem dictated by time. Prufrock’s " decisions and revisions" are tedious and monotonous; in a sense, he has no free will. His lack of self-control can be clearly seen in his circular voyage throughout the poem: he begins his journey by conforming to time, makes a meager attempt to disrupt the invariability of everyday life, and finds himself again hopelessly bound by time to his habitual tendencies.
In this poem, time takes on a distinct meaning. Rather than simply being an external object that lacks control over man, Eliot raises the meaning of this foreign object to a new level. The time provided to the speaker can be equated with his actions. Everyday he is provided a certain amount of time, and day after day he is prepared to "spit out the butt-ends of [his] ways"(Eliot 2461) at the end of the his bland day. The frustration Prufrock builds up is caused by the tiresome repetition of his actions. Furthermore, he feels as though he can not esc...
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...gle daily: we can not control time. No matter how much technology mankind obtains, it is unlikely that we will ever arrive at a point in history where time does not limit us in some way. The importance of this fact lies in its acceptance by man. Once we are able to comprehend our domination by time, we will be able to live in harmony with it, using all of this precious quantity which we are granted.
Eliot, T.S.. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1996. 2459-2463.
Pinion, F. B. A T.S. Eliot Companion. Totowa: Barnes & Noble Books, 1986.
Sharma, Jitendra Kumar. Time & T.S. Eliot: His Poetry, Plays, and Philosophy. New York: Apt Books, INC. 1985.
Spurr, David. Conflicts in Consciousness: T.S. Eliot’s Poetry & Criticism. Urbana: U of Illinois P. 1984.
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