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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Transcript of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T.S Eliot
Thomas Sterns Eliot was born on 26 September 1888, (in Saint Louis, MO) to a rich former New England family.
Eliot suffered from congenital double inguinal hernia as a child and could not do much physical activity. His love of literature gave him both something to do and a way to escape his average world.
He began writing poetry when he was 14, but threw most of his work away because he thought they were too depressing.
BIOGRAPHY: ADULTHOOD AND CAREER
Elliot was a very studious person. He studied at many prestigious academies before getting his bachelors at Harvard.
He went on to study at Oxford where he fell in love with Britain and British culture.
He also fell in love with Vivienne Haigh-Wood who he married on June 26 1915. his marriage was very unhappy due mostly to Vivienne's health issues, but it inspirited Eliot to write more.
He eventually separated from his wife and remarried Esmé Valerie Fletcher who was 38 years younger than him.
He died on January 4, 1965 from lung complications caused by years of heavy smoking.
ABOUT THE POEM
This poem is the earliest of Eliot'swork and, was completed in 1910 or 1911 but not published until 1915. The poem was written while Eliot was attending Harvard as a graduate student.
The title's name "J. Alfred Prufrock" is a subliminal connotation for "prude" in a "frock" (a frock is a long garment or dress worn by women).
The poem was orginally titled "Prufrock Among women."
The poem contributes to the reaccuring theme of emasculation that is prominent in Eliot's work.
While it is believed the character in the poem (J. Alfred Prufrock) is Eliot's alterego, that is not the case. Eliot's poetry always seems to focus on his personal exstinction from his poems. He believed in purifying his personality from his work to perfect it. Any correlation made between Prufrock would lie soley on the chance that Prufrock was what Eliot didn't want to end up as.
The Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock is a dramtic monologue spoken by a middle aged man in the 1900s. Prufrock is uncertain about his place in society and takes everything in a negative light. He tries to approach a woman he admires but torments himself at the thought and then simply chastises himself for almost approaching her. Prufrock contrasts himself with Hamlet, and describing aspects of his personality negatively. At the end of the poem he comes to term with who he is and his outcasted place in society. Then, he goes onto describing the world in great detail as an oberver to show his distance to the world.
S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
"If I thought that my reply would be to one who would ever return to the world, this flame would stay without further movement; but since none has ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear of infamy."
The quote above is called an epigraph, this epigraph used by Eliot ,from Dante's Inferno, in the beginning of the poem to bring imagery and deeper understanding to the poem. It is what gives greater insight to the meaning of the poem.
In Dante's Inferno Prufrock represents both characters Dante (the poet traveling through hell) and Guido Da Montefeltro. Guido da Montefeltro, imprisoned in a flame in Hell, relates his shameful, evil life to Dante only because he thinks Dante will never go back to earth and repeat it.
Prufrock is like Da Montrefeltro, they are both confined in Hell. Only Prufrocks Hell is living on Earth, in a world of his own self-inflicted torture and isolation.
"Like a patient etherized upon a table" (3), while down below barren "half-deserted streets" (4) reveal "one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants" (6-7).
This summarization of Prufrock's surroundings are barren and empty, the hopelessness in Rpufrock's description ties in with the hopelessness that is hell
In realtion to Dante's character in the Inferno, Dante is the hero that Prufrock aspires to be and fails.
In Prufrock's attempt to become a hero in his own life is futile, therefore he condemns himself to ultimate isolation. The epigraph tells the reader about the kind of condemnation that Prufrock has put himself under by reflecting on the damnation of Guido himself. Guido has been cloaked in a tall flame for his sins, and is forced to speak through the tongue of that flame. Through Prufrock's failure to speak the "overwhelming question" that he mentions several times, he gives up his chance to live, love, and communicate with happiness. Prufrock says he has "heard the mermaids singing, each to each // I do not think that they will sing to me." This means he is dehumanizing himself.
Guido's tongue of flame is Prufrocks self-served punishment, a lifetime without the ability to communicate true feelings, and a lonely death at the hands of the "eternal footman" who "snickers" at his cowardice. This eternal footman is society and the snickering is simply just a product of Prufrock's self pity.
"With a bald spot in the middle of my hair / (they will say: 'how his hair is growing thin!')" and "My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin / (They will say: 'how his arms and legs are thin!')"
With reference to the epigraph, a social comment is made that correlates with the poem. The social comment is how the obstacles of life can destroy confidence and self-worth. In the stanza from the poem on the left, Prufrock brutalizes himself internally. This is because of the weight that society has put upon him, it has made him self conscious. This results in Prufrock not asking "the overwhelming question" in fear of judgement and rejection.
Prufrock has been filled with this painful insecurity because he has been "formulated, sprawling on a pin" by the people around him. So, in order to "return alive from this pit" as Guido says, would mean to rise above the constrictions and cruel judgementalism of modern life: a truly heroic act. An act in which Prufrock makes a futile attempt.
After holding the weight of his self-hatred, he crumbles, and gives into his own personal hell. He shuts himself off from society and the woman that he loves because of his fear of human judgment.
The epigraph in the poem is the sole provider of deeper meaning into the poem. It illuminates the aspects of Prufrock's personality that explains why Prufrock is the way he is throughout the poem. It sets the imagery that Prufrock's self-victimization entails.