S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the author isestablishing the trouble the narrator is having dealing with middleage. Prufrock(the narrator) believes that age is a burden and is deeplytroubled by it. . His love of some women cannot be because he feels theprime of his life is over.
His preoccupation with the passing of timecharacterizes the fear of aging he has. The poemdeals with the agingand fears associated with it of the narrator. Prufrock is not confident with himself mentally or his appearance. Heis terrified of what will occur when people see his balding head or hisslim and aging body.
He believes everyone will think he is old anduseless. They will talk about him behind his back. (They will say”How is hair is growing thin!”)My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”This insecurity is definitely a hindrance for him. It holds him backfrom doing the things he wishes to do. This is the sort ofcharacteristic that makes Alfred into a tragic, doomed character. Hewill not find happiness until he finds self-assurance within himself.
The repetition of words like vision and revision, show his feelings ofinadequacy in communicating with the people around him. J. Alfred Prufrock’s self esteem affects his love life greatly. Thewoman he is in love with is younger than he is and this distresses him. He does not believe that some younger women could possibly accept him orfind him attractive. Expressing any kind of affection to her is awkwardand difficult.
Prufrock knows what he must say but cannot bring himselfto say it. “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength toforce the moment to it’s crisis?”(79-80) His apprehensiveness in hislove life, is very troublesome for him indeed. He wishes greatly toexpress his affection but it becomes suppressed within him. Hecompares himself to Lazarus who was an aged man restored to life byJesus. He feels that it will take a miracle to make him feel youngagain. Prufrock sees his age as the end of his romantic zeal.
Heassumes the response to his love will be snappy and heartless. Prufrockbelieves that women do not find older men attractive or see apossibility of romance in them. The rhyme scheme Elliot uses in this poem depicts the disenchanted andconfused mind of the narrator. The poem is written using a non-uniformmeter and rhyme. Various stanzas are not of uniform length.
Thismethod is used to represent the mood and feelings in the verse. Prufrock is feeling confused and overwhelmed by the adversities of lifeso it is logical that his thought will have the same types ofcharacteristics. His thoughts lead to ambiguity such as at the startof the poem. “There you go then, you and I”(1) This could be referringto Prufrock and himself, or Prufrock and his lover. Elliot wrote this poem in a time when social customs were stillconsidered an issue. Everyone had their place and did not vary fromthat.
Stereotypes of groups were lived up to and nobody tried to changeit. Elliot uses blatant images of different classes in order to showthese dissimilarities. The lower class lived a meager, dull andpredictable life. They spend “restless nights in one-night cheaphotels. “(6) The rich on the other hand are educated and enjoy life everyday.
They are busy and bustle around joyfully in order to get thingsdone. In the room the women come and goTalking of Michelangelo. (13-14)Unfortunately, because of his age Prufrock feels that he does not belongto any of these classes. He has similarities pertaining to each of thembut as a whole feels that he simply exists in his own classification.
The debate in Prufrock’s mind finally comes to a close when he compareshimself to Prince Hamlet from William Shakespear’s masterpiece Hamlet. Hamlet was able to express his love and J. Alfred was envious of that. “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was it meant to be”(111) He feels he ismore like Polonius an old, attendant to Lord Hamlet who is intelligent,wise, and eager to please. Prufrock decides he is diplomatic,conscientious, and strives for perfection. However at the same time hetends to lack some sort of mental power, fears he is looking like afool.
This is the conclusion he comes to in order to decide to accepthis place in society and live life the way he should. Eliot uses the reference of time often in order to show the state ofmind of the narrator. The contrasts used show the totalindecisiveness of Prufrock. For the most part the examples are used toillustrate the stereotype of an old person.
It is was accepted thataging people did not work and therefor had time for considering life andother aspects of their existence. And Indeed there will be timeTo wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I Dare?”His eternal dilemma is characterized by his belief that there will betime to consider everything. The time allusions are to show that Prufrock is getting increasinglyolder. He says “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. “(51)This again shows his obsession with the passing of time. Feeling like that of an outsider, Prufrock discovers he cannot existwith the type of people he once did.
He can relate to them but he feelsthey will not accept him because of his age and appearance. Hisexistence is solitary and boring while their state is fun and exciting. “I know the voices dying with a dying fall/Beneath the music from afarther room. “(52-53) He can hear the voices of his neighbors but hecannot go to them. He is bothered by the idea of the younger generationexamining him. He wishes he could fit in but believes that is not areality.
Fantasizing of a world where these problems do not exist is a pleasantdaydream for Prufrock. He imagines the peaceful world under the seawhere social classes do not exist. This shows the internal conflictstill occurring within him. Even though he has overcome his problemwith his love life, he still has many other worries to contend with. The mermaids are singing beautifully, but in his opinion, they cannotpossibly be singing for him. His insecurity is still present and seemsincurable.
His fantasy world is brought to a crashing halt easily. “Till human voices wake us, and we drown. “(131) His only happiness canbe found in daydreams and can be destroyed easily as such. Althoughgiving him temporary relief from the pressures of his life, thisdreamlike state is destroying his heart and only returning to the realworld will save him. In Elliot’s masterpiece “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” as timepasses so does the human spirit of the narrator.
His heart decays bythe moment. Even within his fantasies he is tortured by theever-present problems which plague him throughout his life. He can’teven see the point in expressing his love because of the fear of beingrejected. Elliot’s depiction of the worries of aging is a major aspectincorporated into the poem.
Although Prufrock is a man of knowledge andsociety he is still a misfit because of a little characteristic he cando nothing about. Age kills us all, but for Prufrock it has alreadykilled him.