Comparing Winterbourne and Prufrock

Comparing Winterbourne and Prufrock

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     When creating his famous poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", T.S. Eliot was inspired by a character depicted in the novella known as Daisy Miller, written by Henry James. This character, Winterbourne, was intertwined and considered when creating the timid character of Prufrock. It is evident that both men share similar personalities and characteristics that link them together, both being prime examples of emptiness and despair told through theses writings.
     The central concern in Daisy Miller is of the "analogies and differences" between people. In this story, a young American man, Winterbourne, is confused and intrigued by the behavior of a young American woman, Daisy Miller. Winterbourne had wondered about all of the cold shoulders that had been turned towards her, and sometimes it annoyed him to suspect that she did not feel at all. He said to himself that she was too light and childish, too uncultivated and unreasoning. Then at other moments he believed that she carried about in her an elegant and perfectly observant consciousness from the impression she produced. He asked himself whether Daisy's defiance came from the consciousness of innocence or from her being, essentially, a young person of the "common" class. After getting to know Daisy, he was confused about getting to know his and her emotions. It is far evident that Winterbourne does not come to conclusions about people easily. He was very much influenced by the biases of his upbringing in culture, and he questioned them occasionally.
     "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is about a timid and downcast man in search of meaning, of love, and in search of something to break from the dullness and superficiality which he feels his life to be. Eliot lets us into Prufrock's world for an evening, and traces his progression of emotion from timidity, and, ultimately, to despair of life. He searches for meaning and acceptance by the love of a woman, but falls miserably because of his lack of self-assurance. Prufrock is a man for whom, it seems, everything goes wrong, and for whom there are no happy allowances. The emptiness and shallowness of Prufrock's "universe" and of Prufrock himself are evident from the very beginning of the poem. He cannot find it in himself to tell the woman what he really feels, and when he tries to tell her, it comes out in a mess. At the end of the poem, he realizes that he has no big role in life.

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He is not "Prince Hamlet, nor was he meant to be". Prufrock feels as though he has been living in an imaginary world the whole time, and when reality hits him, he lets go of his inner self.
     Both characters are searching for love, and in that process come upon ideas and questions that they ask, not only about others, but also about themselves. They live their lives wondering what could be, and they don't always have the ability to show their own emotions. This time period reflects an age where people were affected by the society around them, therefor creating a group of individuals destined to live in a universe filled with sorrow and despair. The character of Winterbourne can thereafter be thought of as being the beginning of a life that would spiral down into the depths of Prufrock, creating a direct relation between the two. The "self-conscious" writer Henry James created a realistic character, and Eliot took these facts into a deeper consideration to create his "Love Song", describing what he sees as a spiritual death among the living.
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