Works Cited Not Included
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a poem by T.S. Eliot, provides an abundant source of material for applying Freudian analysis. Specifically, it is the character Prufrock who supplies this rich source. Although many Freudian themes could have been addressed in relation to Prufrock, in this paper it will be narrowed to the prevalent themes of ambivalence and cultural frustration found in Freudπs work and the contributing role the super-ego plays in their occurrence. In fact, Prufrock exemplifies ambivalence and its necessary conditions so well that Freud himself would have probably labeled him a neurotic.
Before applying Freudian analysis to Prufrock, it is important to address one issue that will have an immediate effect on the interpretation of the poem. It stems from the following translated passage found in Danteπs Inferno that appears right before the body of the poem. The passage is spoken by a person within the eighth chasm of hell.
If I believed that my answer would be
To someone who would ever return to earth,
This flame would move no more,
But because no one from this gulf
Has ever returned alive, if what I hear is true,
I can reply with no fear of infamy. (Eliot, 3)
Although this passage may suggest that Prufrock is speaking to someone who he can trust, his character would suggest otherwise. Prufrock is far too consciously anxious when it comes to what people think of him. This can be displayed by his enduring indecisiveness found in the many questions he asks throughout the poem, such as, ≥Do I dare / Disturb the universe?≤ (45-46) and ≥S...
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...y. The issue of sexual repression, an example being when he asks "Do I dare to eat a peach?" (125), could easily be another thematic focus. Also, one could focus on the dream-like structure of the poem, and how the issues of manifest and latent content come into play. Of course, as alluded to, repression (not just the sexual kind) is extremely prevalent throughout the poem, and would thus provide an excellent case study for Freudian analysis. However, it was interesting to address the issues of ambivalence and cultural frustration because when applying these to the poem Prufrock's character began to make more sense. There was an explanation provided for his previously inexplicable behavior. Also, there was a vivid example of Freudian theory at work. In this sense, the coupling of Freudian theory and this poem, made both even more comprehensible and enriching.
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