T.S. Eliot was a British essayist, playwright, and literary critic of the twentieth century. His poetry includes the thematic thrust of fate of selfhood in time, loss of self and threats to selfhood.
The poem – The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock – is about the central character Prufrock who is a middle aged balding man. He, due to his indecisive nature, fails to profess his love to his beloved. The poem is a dramatic monologue similar to Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’. A monologue is where – a person utters a speech that implies his story and reveals his character.
Prufrock brings in the element of procrastination that to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. It can be stated through the line:-
“And indeed there will be time
To wonder Do I dare?”
This confused nature of his of what to do and not to do can be sharply contrasted with Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. It also states that the language is vernacular and superficial as it can’t bear the burden of meaning. Moreover, he suffers from split personality. One part of him is romantic with heroic aspirations such as ‘Prince Hamlet’, Italian painter ‘Michelangelo’ and Jesus’ greatest follower ‘Lazarus’. The other half is self deflating and calculating as he gets paralyzed with timidity, inadequacy and self consciousness. Thus, he is polyphonic in nature. Moreover, he judges himself rather than being judged by the society that highlights the issue of class and appearance. As the poem remarks:-
“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create.”
It thus unveils the idea of appearance versus reality as Prufrock cannot face the world directly and there is a need for disguise. So, I feel that the poem rather than love is a psychological journey as Prufrock is the product of his environment which is full of fear. The poem is a kind of elegy for what might have been there had Prufrock been equal to the challenges of his milieu.
It is indeed one of my favourite poems by Eliot. What are your thoughts on it?