AD's English Literature : The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock--a song of frustration and conflict, of loneliness and boredom

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock--a song of frustration and conflict, of loneliness and boredom

                Prufrock is an embodiment of split personality – a separation of head and heart, a paralysis of the will and too much worry regarding a love proposal. The poem marks a complete break of the modern civilization with all its ugliness – the never ending streets, smoking chimneys, yellow fog, dirty drains and smell of female bodies. It is urban in its theme and setting. In a series of paragraphs the lover analysis the reason for a resolution and indecision and tries to justify his cowardice and lack of nerves. Behind this, mental state is a disease of modern routine – the aimless life of the city dwellers and the monotonous sound of social parties.

                Prufrock is one of the victims of modern civilization. He is between the two sites of his personality, which thereby highlights the nervousness and neurosis. His neurotic nature, his inability to face the problems of life is reflected in his delay and procrastination. He does not want to clinch the issue of the marriage proposal. He thinks he has a lot of time to take a decision if any –
                Time for you and time for me,
                And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
                And for a hundred visions and revisions,

                Prufrock refers to Hamlet and this enables to understand his psychological malady. He is like Polonius, middle aged conscious of his position, through doubled headed and sometimes ridiculous. Though he is old he wants to appear young with the latest clothes. Prufrock is unable to face the problems of life. He seeks an escape to a romantic world. He is dreaming about the mermaids and the sea-weaves, when he is awakened by the human voices around. The realities of life cannot leave him, although he is unable to face them. The poem highlights the dilemma and indecisiveness as well as the squalor and barrenness of modern urban civilization.

                Prufrock’s affairs with women are a device to escape the loneliness of his life. Like other lonely man he desires company and yet he is unable to make hay while the sun shines. The root cause of his loneliness is the lack of communication. He is more of introvert than an extrovert.
                “And should I then presume?
                And how should I begin?
He musters courage to begin but his fancy leads him to the silent seas where he is “a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors” of the ocean. Even his pretended fear of the rejection of his love by the lady betrays his inherent lack of communication “It is impossible to say just what I mean”.

                Prufrock is bored by the mechanical routine by the trivialities of social life by his own indecision, by his own interests and laziness. There is a lurking death wish ‘and we drown’, a desire to escape from reality. Like the evening he is lazy and a. malingers to avoid action and duty. He is quite conscious of his own helplessness and frustration. He is so much fed up with life that he considers any action even the making of a proposal absolutely useless. He has been through action, but that has only added to his boredom. The trouble with him is that his ennui or sense of fatigue has dried up his volition and emotion. His intellectualism and sensitiveness has also sapped the source of his emotionalism.

                Prufrock’s personality colours his outlook and his reaction to his surroundings. The streets are like a ‘tedious argument’, the fog like a cat ‘rubs its back upon the window pones’, the yellow smoke ‘lingers upon till pull’. Prufrock is disgusted with arguing and anything requiring action because it will lead him to ‘an overwhelming question’
                “Then how should I begin
                To spit out all the but ends of my days and ways?”

                Prufrock suffers from a spiritual paralysis. His sterile and inert for anything requires an effort. His intellectualism has sapped his vitality and potentiality for action. This is the condition of the modern man living in a commercialized society.

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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