Published: 21-10-2019

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The (Modernist) Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T. S. Eliot’s The Enjoy Song of J. Alfred Prufrock demonstrates many Modernist concepts. In specific, by often employing imagery, repetition, alliteration, assonance, rhetorical inquiries and references, creatively shaping lines and sentences and weaving in ambiguity and uncertainty in his words, Eliot includes Modernist traits in his function. Thematically, there is also a concentrate on the individual and its clash with society and social pressures, the city and contemporary living and a rejection of Romanticism and Victorianism that leads the poem towards the discordant. Practically a century later, these revolutionary themes nevertheless find relevance.

By way of his Modernist images, discontinuous free of charge verse, classical and literary allusions and repetition, Eliot exposes the conflict among the person and society and the emphasis on the individual. For instance, the opening line of the poem, “Let us go then, you and I” (Eliot line 1)encompasses “a self-aware contentiousness and questioning.” The intentional ambiguity of “you and I” is repeated often all through the poem. The phrase is specifically critical in displaying that Prufrock, the persona and the “I”, is surrendering himself to the guidance of the objective “you”, presumably his lover. His passivity, taking into consideration the context of the Eurocentric, male-dominated early 20th century, is the very first indication of Prufrock’s reticence. This inkling is confirmed a few lines later when photos of “the etherised patient…reflect his paralysis even though the pictures of the city depict a specific lost loneliness.” Prufrock finds it tough to connect with the “women who come and go” talking about high culture. This idea is additional explored in the following stanza:

And certainly there will be time

To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair-

(They will say: ‘How his hair is developing thin!’)

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a straightforward pin-

(They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’)

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

(Eliot lines 37-48)

Eliot’s imagery and repetition is effortlessly polished and productive. Prufrock is afraid to encounter the unidentified folks he needs to see. He lacks self-self-confidence and is minutely perceptive to all his physical imperfections. His imagination runs wild with hesitancy and agitation as he visualises the criticism “they” will maliciously point out. Even merchandise of his relative wealth such as his morning coat and necktie fail to please him as he swelters in analytical self-scrutiny and self-doubt by asking himself consistently parenthetical rhetorical inquiries. He even likens the easy meeting he is about to have to disturbing the universe. For example, Prufrock has:

…known them all currently, identified them all-

Have identified the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

(Eliot lines 49-51)

Even so, he can't embrace society or intimacy, nor make choices without delay. These lines, laced with repetition and deliberately irregular rhymes, suggest Prufrock is a man who is bored and exhausted with his vast experience in life. Prufrock’s memorable metaphoric observation, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” is unambiguous about regardless of whether it is one “of a lonely, desolate particular person or of an more than social one particular.” Eliot’s subsequent important metaphor reads:

I need to have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

(Eliot lines 73-74)

As a result, Eliot emphatically points to the latter by comparing Prufrock to a rough pair of crab-like claws, detached from their owner, scuttling across the extensive, soundless ocean floor, forlorn and incomplete. Nonetheless, Prufrock’s comment that he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall” suggests otherwise by figuratively invoking the idea that he is a tiny, inconspicuous object pinned to a society he is struggling to totally free himself from. Later, Prufrock draws allusion to himself and Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Polunios and concludes he is neither a prince nor “an attendant lord” but “at times, the Fool.” In line 120, Eliot makes use of ellipses behind the two consecutive “I develop old” to develop discontinuity in the lines and weary misery for Prufrock. The repetitive “I”s in this stanza emphasizes Prufrock the individual and his lonely existence filled with constant self-questioning and indecisiveness. By making use of various literary techniques, threfore, Eliot manages to portray J. Alfred Prufrock as a solitary middle-aged man inharmonious with his surroundings, his society and himself.

Eliot also exploits descriptive language, extended metaphors, rhyme and repetition to set “The Enjoy Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in a metropolitan context. The poem opens with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, spoken by the character Count Guido da Montefeltro, who is incarcerated in the fires of Hell. The poem itself begins in the poor section of a city, possibly London or Paris, where Prufrock’s earthly hell exists. In fragmented sentences and with unpatterned rhyme, Eliot describes “muttering retreats,” “cheap hotels,” “sawdust restaurants” and “half-deserted streets.” The application of enjambment conveys the tortuous spatiality of the metropolis and the meaningless routine and negativity of city life. The pictures developed are of an abandoned, unfeeling and austere city. This seedy and disenchanting atmosphere is lifeless, rootless and barren. In the second stanza, the yellow smoke and fog that drifts towards drains, soot-filled chimneys and windowpanes as properly as the fog’s correlation with the shifty, pathetic movements of a feline remind readers of the dirty and miserable manufacturing component of the city. This representation of factory smoke, industrial waste, stench and poverty is how Eliot and Prufrock view the city. Nevertheless, Eliot provides city life another perspective by directing Prufrock to method “parties and drawing-rooms…through the streets which provide metaphors for the squalor, the dangers, the mystery and the beauty of the unnamed city.”

Additionally, the irregularity in rhythm, fragmentation in lines, coldness in society and fragility in Prufrock’s character provides the poem the Modernist tendency towards chaos. Eliot’s special manipulation of language and poetic techniques marches in unison with Prufrock’s social eccentricity (or perhaps lack of it). The rhythm of the poem follows no certain guidelines. Eliot mainly paints irregularly rhymed totally free verse on the page but occasionally blots in unrhymed totally free verse that gives the poem a prose like high quality. The lines are also irregular, often composing of an incomplete phrase that finishes in the subsequent line. Sentences are thus splattered all more than a stanza providing the poem and the persona a messy and disorienting effect. The two inserts of the refrain, for example, study:

In the area the ladies come and go

Speaking of Michelangelo.

(Eliot, lines 13-14 and 35-36)

They appear disjointed from the primary stanzas, particularly with no numerous readings, and are reflections of Modernist tips. Content material-wise, “The Enjoy Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” like considerably of Eliot’s poetry, is set in the cold and darkness of evening, itself a disordered scene. Eliot’s simile comparing the evening sky to “a patient etherised upon a table” generates an image of a surgery or a morgue that drains any sign of life or lightness out of it. The adjectives splashes throughout the poem are “the language of disordered encounter, of imprecision and aimlessness, abounds in modifiers and plurals: restless nights, one-evening inexpensive hotels, visions and revisions, the sunsets and the dooryards, and the sprinkled streets.” The odd order in Eliot’s phrase, “Have identified the evenings, mornings, afternoons,” shows Prufrock has a perplexed sense of time. The figure of Prufrock himself is disorderly and pernickety. His constant self-rhetorical questioning of “Do I dare?” and “How need to I presume?” shows he is unable to function in a society that relies on socializing, action and decisiveness. The city and its society are also disjointed and futile. The yellow fog and Prufrock’s introversion casts a shadow more than drawing space English teas that represent tradition, values and morals. Eliot’s treatment of language and poetic tactics thus reveals the futile and tangled traits of Modernism.

In summary, Eliot’s “The Really like Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” reveals modernist concepts by means of different literary and poetic strategies. It employs rhyme, repetition, figurative language, allusions, fragmented sentences and bizarre selections in language to convey desolation in cities, individuals’ struggles against society and their significance in society and disorderliness and futility in life. Eliot’s exemplary usage of these themes tends to make “The Really like Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” one of the greatest examples of Modernist poetry in existence.
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