Prufrock is an Aging Romantic Entrapped by Rotting World of Pseudo- gentility--An Analysis of T. S. Eliot 's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Alfred Prufruck is the central character of T.S.Eliot’s famous poem The Love song of J.Alfred Prufrock. He is middle aged dandy, a neurotic and tragic figure. The rottenness, the corruption and decadence of contemporary modern society is exposed with a rare poignancy here. Urban in setting, very often allusive, full of images symbols and references, drawn from various sources, the poem mercilessly exposes the boredom, inaction, restlessness of modem city life. What passes within Prufrock’s consciousness forms the narrative framework of the poem. In an unorganized and seemingly unconnected series of insights, memories and reflections the natural flow of the narrator’s  thoughts here it captures the total in decisions and doubts of Prufrock’s mind. With his mental and physical weakness, alternating between realism and fantasy, faltering within dreams, revisions, and revised opinions, alike the endless rounds of coffee and cigarettes in modern life, Prufrock has become r coax, foggy, timid, hollow man, a boneless effigy of pseudo-gentility of modern world.

            With telling images and far-fetched conceits and symbols indebted from metaphysical machinery from 17th century and 19th century French symbolist, Eliot tries to lay bare the mind of the protagonist Prufrock, a bundle of frustration, nervous-breakdown and indecisiveness. The poem begins with a beautiful metaphysical conceit, pointing to a striking parallelism between two dissimilar things:
                    “Let us go then, you and I,
                     When the evening is spread out against the sky
                      like the patient etherized upon a table”.
 The evening which is torpid and apparently light-less reflects the mental vacuity of the speaker stressing his constant hesitation marked by self pity and self disgust. The contrast between the wide stretch of the sky and the vigour and vitality of the patient reduced to living death caused by anesthesia virtually stirs the imagination of every reader. Not only that but Prufrock’s self is torn into two warring self – social and inner.

  Image Courtesy      
Oscillating and vacillating over the two extremes whether to declare love to the lady or not, Prufrock is virtually aware of his psychological barrenness, his growing age, bald head, futile measurement of modern life: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoon”. With an ironic tone Prufrock is less immediate with the love proposal, whereas Prufrock has only ‘wept and fasted’ ‘wept and prayed’ to prepare a face to face the declaration of love. Repressed by over scrupulousness and inaction, his is the abortive silence of ‘overwhelming question’ ends in murmuring ‘Do I dare? Do I dare?’

            Prufrock’s helplessness and his struggle to release himself from ennui and inertia is the ultimate spiritual crisis of the protagonist. He is the poor worm fixed to a wall by a sharp needle and wriggling to get freed. The merciless penetrating fierce eyes of the so called Michaelaholic ladies have cooled every spark of fire inside Prufrock. In such a boiling situation he can’t drop a question on the dining table as he might be served on a plate alike John the Baptist. With greater effort in moistening hope if ever he declares his love, they might instantly reply in negation “That is not What I meant, at all”.

            The unsung love story of Prufrock places the hero on unheroic terms, his timidity exceed further to neurosis. He is a timid and compares himself even to a crab:
      “I should have been a pair of ragged claws
       Scuttling across the floors of silent seas?”
Being a crab and roaming inside deep domain of unseen seas, the unheroic modern man can’t hear mermaid singing as they applauded the brave and adventurous Ulysses and mariners. Instead Prufrock malingers like a cat, undecided like Hamlet, reseals void soul of Lazarus, intrigues like Polonius. Prufrock thus stands a modern man who is spiritually bankrupt and creatively barren into the vast world of infertile waste land, the modern society.  
            Ardhendu De  

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