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Review
3 of 5 stars to the poetry of T.S. Eliot, specifically, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, a man confronts his physical sexuality during an elite social gathering. The man, J. Alfred Prufrock, breathes in his surroundings and then uses them to define his own appearance as the antithesis of what he sees. The man has no selfesteem and therefore constantly dwells on his negative attributes and lessthanperfect features. In the poem, Prufrock recites a long monologue that is characteristic of almost every other human being. T. S. Eliot uses Prufrock as a symbol, for humanity in general, to show how all persons are doubtful at times of their attractiveness.

Prufrock is a man of uncertain age. (Spender 31) Therefore, he can be portrayed as a teenager, a middleaged man, or a person of any other age very easily. If one looks at Prufrock through the eyes of a teenager, he can easily be seen as a seventeenyearold. While Prufrock is “like a patient etherized upon a table” (line 3), teenagers roam the halls at school like puppy dogs with their mouths open, dazed and lost in space. Both are in love with some beautiful woman and wander the paths practically drooling. While Prufrock is busy finding time “for a hundred indecisions, and a hundred visions and revision” (lines 3233), teenagers are occupied thinking of ways to approach the person they want. Both seem to put facades on to make themselves sound better so that they will get the person they want to get. While Prufrock is worrying “with a bald spot in the middle of his hair(How they will say his hair is growing thin!)” (lines 4142), teenagers constantly, in vain, check their own hair in the mirror to see if it is just perfect! There are several similarities between young people like teenagers and Prufrock. However, not only does Prufrock resemble teenagers, but he also resembles middleaged men who are hitting a midlife crisis. They worry about their hair balding or becoming gray and whether they are attractive enough. They go out and try to reinvent themselves as different people just as Prufrock does with his revisions, decisions, and visions. Prufrock has characteristics of several different people of all ages. Eliot is showing that all men (women included) have doubts and occasional low selfesteem. Whether you are 17, 37, or 57, you are capable of having no confidence occasionally. This is Eliot’s generalization of all men.

Prufrock’s worries concerning his sexuality and appearance not only show his resemblance to all men, but they also stop him from continuing on with his life as a happy, caring, and normal man. “He is Eliot’s archetype of the great refusal, the man who fears to dare and so misses life... ...Prufrock initiates Eliot’s obsession with the lost opportunity and the missed life.” (Mayer 127) Prufrock is so busy concentrating on his lessthanperfect features and supposed negative attributes that he lets life pass him by. “I grow old... I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” (Line 120121) Prufrock loses the future by concentrating on the present. His inhibitions about the opposite sex hold him back. “‘Prufrock’ is built around the arid, timid, conventional persona of a man sexual enough to admit desire, but insufficiently sexual to do anything about it.” (Raffel 24) In every person’s life they feel like this occasionally. They love someone, but they hold themselves back because of some fear, etc. Eliot uses Prufrock as a symbol for all men again.

“Prufrock is inhibited, selfconscious, obsessed with image, selfpossessed, and afraid... Fear is in the waythe fear to dare, to live honestly, to tell all, to be the Fool. The mermaids will not sing to Prufrock because he will not sing to anyone. His “love song” to himself is a cry of anguish...” (Mayer 128129) While Prufrock sings to himself, men everywhere are busy talking outlook to the stars, the sky, and the moon about how much they wish they could get the girl they loved or be more handsome, more intelligent, or more loved. Some of these men will cry out in anguish and they will not tell anyone how they feel because of inhibitions. The mermaids (women) therefore will not sing to him if he will not sing to them! All men are afraid to tell a woman how they feel about them often in reality. They will stutter and beat around the bush. Besides the mermaids, there are several other minor characters who can support this theory. Prufrock talks about Prince Hamlet, Lazarus, the Footman, and an attendant lord. He has characteristics of all these men. He attends to others and never pleases himself like the attendant lord. “Hamlet embodies Prufrock’s aspirations to livethat is, to be or not to be”. (Mayer 117) All men have asked themselves that question; Should I do it or shouldn’t I? (Referring to asking someone out) All of these people have traits in common with Prufrock, moreover with every other man. Once again, Prufrock is shown to be a symbol for all men.

In the middle of the poem, Prufrock talks of other men and the effect of the yellow smoke that curled around the windows. “...And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes of lonely men in shirtsleeves, leaning out of windows.” (lines 7172) Prufrock obviously identifies with the lonely men (despite their shirtsleeves), and perhaps sees their leaning out of the windows as symbolic of his own desire for contact with the world. (Spurr 7) Since Prufrock identifies with the lonely men, therefore, that is proof that others have felt this way. Prufrock, like all others often in their lives, back away from pursuing love from a paralyzing fear that results in the ultimate loss of the object he desires. “Prufrock watches his possible moment of greatness flicker because of his anxiety over his looks.” (Spurr 56) All men seem to follow in his footsteps.

If one looks at a few words specifically in the poem, like “let us go then, you and I” (line 1), one can see why Prufrock really is a symbol for all men in general. “The “you” and “I” of the first line present greater difficulties. Critics have commonly interpreted them as referring to two parts of Prufrock, carrying on a conversation with himself.” (Headings 24) Many times Prufrock seems to be having a conversation with someone else, perhaps another man, or even his object of love. However, the poem is really one long monologue. Prufrock is speaking to himself. Men in reality will often do the same when trying to make a decision. They will ask themselves whether they really love the woman, or want to marry her, or want to kiss her, etc. Talking to oneself is a common practice to make a decision.

J. Alfred Prufrock is a man who is in love with a certain woman, but he is somehow held back from approaching her. He feels unworthy of her, he feels unattractive, and for some reason he is sexually inhibited. At one time in their life, whether it be as a teenager, a middleaged man, or an older person, men have felt like Prufrock. They have doubts, fears, and inhibitions. Prufrock is truly a symbol for all of humanity in general.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. It was a required reading at literature seminar. I like poetry in general, and I enjoyed many of these poems. Question: Why oh why do they make children read Prufrock in school? How can a kid, having run in from recess with pink perfect cheeks and years to go before hairs start sprouting out of weird places, have any idea what T.S. Eliot is talking about? How can someone who thinks 21yearolds are ancient, possibly get Prufrock? I remember being asked to read this poem in fourth grade, and it is touching in an odd way to think back on the scene in the classroommy 40ish, balding teacher, bent almost double over his desk with his passion for this poem, begging, pleading with us callow, brighteyed children, to get ithis desk might as well have been the Great Wall of China. We just stared and blinked our big anime eyes and thought he was a crazy old fart. Time didn't touch us yet. Like all kids, we thought it never would, that we had been spared by dint of our superiority. Poor Mr. Bull; he must have gone home, shaved his bunions and wept into his tea.

Years and years later, I took a class at San Francisco City College, which focused on three readings: Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I had not reread Prufrock since that 4th grade incident. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was inculcated in the theory that if a poem scans, rhymes, tells a cohesive story, or otherwise makes sense, it sucks. Ginsberg, Snyder, Diane DePrima, and anyone who wrote streamofconsciousness, explosive, expressive idbased barbaric yawps = good; Shakespeare, St. Vincent Millay, Eliot, and essentially anyone whose work appeared in the reviled, rejected, LackeysoftheImperialistBourgeoisieclassical canon = bad.

At 11, I read it and couldn't believe how stupid it was. What the hell was this guy Eliot even talking about? I liked mermaids and peaches, but the rest of the poem might as well have been in a dead language.

At 30, I read it and every line sank into my soul and shook me. I had spent enough time on earth to feel the first stirrings of fear of mortality. I wasn't in my twenties anymore and I thought, this is the best damn poem I have ever read.

Maybe you have to get a bit older before this poem resonates with youmaybe you have to have felt the first stirrings of existential despair and the chill of mortality. Probably you have to have heard the eternal footman hold your coat, and snicker, and in short, be afraid.

There are so many parts of Prufrock that I lovethat sum up the socalled 'human condition' so perfectly:
"Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table.."
"I have measured out my life in coffeespoons.."
"Do I dare to eat a peach?"
"I grow old, I grow old..I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled..."
"I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.."

And finally:
"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By seagirls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."


“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is an examination of the tortured ego of the modern man—overeducated, eloquent, neurotic, pompous and disturbed, who’s ironically tortured due to his overwhelming brilliance. The main character, not someone of fame and wealth but rather an unacknowledged poet, sees the world as spiritually exhausted and a wasteland. Humans are incapable of communicating with one another because their psychological state is too fragile and afraid of change. He notices all these things by observing people and nature, and yet is unable to do anything to change any of it because he is “etherized like a patient” by his own fear of rejection, change and indecisiveness. While a part of him would like to shake them up and wake them from their cookie cutter, meaningless lives, another part of him knows to accomplish this change he would have to “disturb the universe” and change is hard. All this realization and character development given to us by T.S. Eliot through Prufrock’s eyes is from simple observation and figurative language. This work is a perfect example of just how T.S. Eliot mastered figurative language. "Do I dare disturb the universe?"

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