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Characteristic Downfall

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In T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the author is

establishing the trouble the narrator is having dealing with middle

age. Prufrock(the narrator) believes that age is a burden and is deeply

troubled by it.. His love of some women cannot be because he feels the

prime of his life is over. His preoccupation with the passing of time

characterizes the fear of aging he has. The poemdeals with the aging

and fears associated with it of the narrator.

Prufrock is not confident with himself mentally or his appearance. He

is terrified of what will occur when people see his balding head or his

slim and aging body. He believes everyone will think he is old and

useless. They will talk about him behind his back.

(They will say"How is hair is growing thin!")

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

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple


[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]

This insecurity is definitely a hindrance for him. It holds him back

from doing the things he wishes to do. This is the sort of

characteristic that makes Alfred into a tragic, doomed character. He

will not find happiness until he finds self-assurance within himself.

The repetition of words like vision and revision, show his feelings of

inadequacy in communicating with the people around him.

J. Alfred Prufrock's self esteem affects his love life greatly. The

woman he is in love with is younger than he is and this distresses him.

He does not believe that some younger women could possibly accept him or

find him attractive. Expressing any kind of affection to her is awkward

and difficult. Prufrock knows what he must say but cannot bring himself

to say it. "Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to

force the moment to it's crisis?"(79-80) His apprehensiveness in his

love life, is very troublesome for him indeed. He wishes greatly to

express his affection but it becomes suppressed within him. He

compares himself to Lazarus who was an aged man restored to life by

Jesus. He feels that it will take a miracle to make him feel young

again. Prufrock sees his age as the end of his romantic zeal. He

assumes the response to his love will be snappy and heartless. Prufrock

believes that women do not find older men attractive or see a

possibility of romance in them.

The rhyme scheme Elliot uses in this poem depicts the disenchanted and

confused mind of the narrator. The poem is written using a non-uniform

meter and rhyme. Various stanzas are not of uniform length. This

method is used to represent the mood and feelings in the verse.

Prufrock is feeling confused and overwhelmed by the adversities of life

so it is logical that his thought will have the same types of

characteristics. His thoughts lead to ambiguity such as at the start

of the poem. "There you go then, you and I"(1) This could be referring

to Prufrock and himself, or Prufrock and his lover.

Elliot wrote this poem in a time when social customs were still

considered an issue. Everyone had their place and did not vary from

that. Stereotypes of groups were lived up to and nobody tried to change

it. Elliot uses blatant images of different classes in order to show

these dissimilarities. The lower class lived a meager, dull and

predictable life. They spend "restless nights in one-night cheap

hotels."(6) The rich on the other hand are educated and enjoy life every

day. They are busy and bustle around joyfully in order to get things


In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.(13-14)

Unfortunately, because of his age Prufrock feels that he does not belong

to any of these classes. He has similarities pertaining to each of them

but as a whole feels that he simply exists in his own classification.

The debate in Prufrock's mind finally comes to a close when he compares

himself to Prince Hamlet from William Shakespear's masterpiece Hamlet.

Hamlet was able to express his love and J. Alfred was envious of that.

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was it meant to be"(111) He feels he is

more like Polonius an old, attendant to Lord Hamlet who is intelligent,

wise, and eager to please. Prufrock decides he is diplomatic,

conscientious, and strives for perfection. However at the same time he




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