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The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

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The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

  1. 1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T. S. Eliot
  2. 2. T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) Born in St. Louis, Missouri Died in London 7th and youngest child New England Family Attended Harvard University, The University of Paris, Oxford and Detached from wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood American-English poet, playwright, editor, literary critic, and leader of the modernist movement in Literature. Wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock when he was only 22. The poem is considered one of the most influential poetic works of the 20th century. Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948
  3. 3. Modernism The term “modernism” refers to a movement that began in the late 1800’s, merging with WWI, and continued to be influential after WWII. Modernism was a reaction to WWI and the Victorian ideals. Modernist poets were concerned with breaking rules and traditions and finding a contemporary way of expression through variations of form and style. Poets attempted to describe the world they saw before them in poetry, rather than create a fictional world for their readers. The world was seen as breaking apart and the meaning of things were being questioned Modernism struggled with the fragmentation and complexity brought about by such states. Their works were often harshly realistic, incoherent, and unnecessarily dark. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is the first masterpiece of modernism as it examines, through the narrators self-analysis, the emptiness and soulless quality of an exposed social world surrounding him. “The Love Song” is a modernistic poem in the form of a dramatic monologue.
  4. 4. Characteristics of Modernism Thematic Characteristics Breakdown of social norms and cultural traditions Stream of consciousness Dislocation of meaning and sense from its normal context Disillusionment Valorization of the despairing individual in the face of and unmanageable future Formal Characteristics Open form Free Verse Discontinuous narrative Juxtaposition Intertextuality Classical allusions Borrowing from different cultures and languages Unconventional use of metaphors Fragmentation
  5. 5. Title The title suggests that the focus of the poem will be J. Alfred Prufrock’s declaration of love to somebody. However, most titles that have the phrase, "Love Song" are deceiving and likely to be the opposite of what the title advertises. The name, J. Alfred Prufrock, is ironic and not romantic, giving insight to the characters relation to the opposite sex.
  6. 6. Paraphrase Dante’s Inferno: “If I thought my answer were to one who could return to the world, I would not reply, but as none ever did return alive from this depth, without fear of infamy I answer thee.”
  7. 7. Paraphrase The first part of the poem is an introduction into the characters world. Prufrock is inviting the reader to walk with him into the streets. He notices a social gathering of women discussing Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Smoke and fog spreads across the city. He compares the fog to a cat, rubbing its head on and licking objects, and curling up to sleep. He tells himself that there will be time to do many things. There will be time to do things before sitting with a woman to take toast and tea.
  8. 8. Paraphrase The second part of the poem deals with Pruforck reflecting on his actions and being bothered by the manner in which other people perceive him. He says there will be time to ponder, whether he dares to go near a woman. He thinks about turning back. His hair is going bald and his arms and legs are thin. He even doubts the acceptability of his clothes and begins to feel self conscious. He will make a decision and then reverse it. Prufrock realizes that the people here are the same as the one’s he has already met, so why bother doing anything? He wonders how he would present himself to them- his unexciting, average life. He says he knows women like this before, and the smell of their perfumes makes him think of them. Will he tell women, that he watched as he walked down the narrow streets, how lonely men leaned out of their windows observing life go by but taking no action. Time passes by peacefully. He thinks, should I take a change and live a little? He remembers how much he has suffered. The opportunity is passing. He sees death up close and admits his fear of it.
  9. 9. Paraphrase In the final part of the poem, Prufrock mediates if he had acted without question, then would women still reject him regardless. Would it have been worthwhile not to be alone? He compares himself to Hamlet; both are indecisive. Prufrock lacks Hamlet’s charisma and majesty. Therefore he connects more with Polonius, the attendant lord. Prufrock realizes that time is passing as he grows older. He is going through a middle-age crisis. He considers changing his hair and clothes. Like Odysseus, he has heard songs of the sirens. However, they are not singing to him and he cannot break free of his bonds.
  10. 10. Connotation Anaphora: Line 91-95 Hyperbole: Line 92-93: The universe becomes a ball that is rolled up. Allusion: There will be time (line 23): “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. In Marvell’s poem, the speaker encourages the mistress to seize the moment, and take advantage of youth. Prufrock on the other hand, can’t even approach a woman and keeps deluding himself that “there will be time”. Mermaids (line124): In Homer’s, The Odyssey, sailors attracted by the mermaids song, will listen to them until they die. Odysseus is tempted by sea nymphs, but instead asks to be ties to the boat to resist temptation. He then passes the island without being able to go. Prufrock relates to this feeling of wanting something but not being able to act on it. Shakespeare Twelfth Night: Dying fall (line 52) Hamlet (metaphors): Prince Hamlet (line 112): Prufrock is indecisive like Hamlet. Attendant lord (line 113): Prufrock worries that his words that the words he speaks will make him look dimwitted like Polonius. Fool (line 119): Prufrock also makes a comparison to Yorick; as if he were being ridiculed for his appearance or beliefs just as a court jester would be.
  11. 11. Connotation Symbolism, Imagery and Words: Streets: Prufrock invites the reader to take a walk with him, however, there is no romantic feel to it. Instead the streets seem to be in the worst part of town. They are misleading and seem to go nowhere, like Prufrock Imagery: The streets are contrasted to the proper middle-class life he leads. Lines 4-7: Personification: “retreats” and “muttering”, “night” and “restless” Lines 8-10: Simile Lines 13-22: Extended Metaphor: Fog to Cats Lines 70-72: Imagery
  12. 12. Connotation Symbolism, Imagery and Words (cont’d): Tradition: “The Love Song” is a parody of the easy- going British tradition of eating and drinking (tea and biscuits). Prufrock is constantly talking about what he is or will eat/drink. Line 51: Metaphor/Synecdoche: Spoons used for measurement of tea are like the measurements of life. The spoon is a synecdoche for the process of sitting down in the afternoon to drink tea. Line 81: Irony: It is ironic for Prufrock to say he has fasted, knowing how much he thinks about food. Line 91: Metaphor: The “matter” is being compared to taking a bite.
  13. 13. Connotation Symbolism, Imagery and Words (cont’d): Body Parts: Prufrock is a very self-conscious man and prefers to not stand out in public. He reduces people, in his mind, especially women, to body parts. Line 27-29: Faces: People don’t meet faces, they meet a whole person. Line 55-58: Eyes: Eyes can’t “formulate”; people can. Line 62-67: Arms: Arms sand for a woman. Line 40-44: Symbolism: Bald spot is symbolic of his middle age, just as nice clothes are symbolic of social class Line 82: Metaphorical allusion: John the Baptist’s, from the Bible, decapitation regarded as an example of Christian sacrifice. Prufrock is comparing his own sacrifice to John’s.
  14. 14. Connotation Symbolism, Imagery and Words (cont’d): Room Imagery: Prufrock spends much of the poem in rooms. He is either eating, listening to other people, or fantasizing about women. Line 13-14 and 35-36: Repetition: He repeats the phrase” “In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo”. The repetition suggests that life is repetitive and dull. Lines 75-79: Personification: The evening is personified as a person who is sleeping next to Prufrock. Line 129: Diction: “Chambers” can refer to many things: a cavity in an organ, or a bedroom. Chambers, in this case, seems to exemplify that Prufrock’s perfect room would be at the bottom of the ocean.
  15. 15. Attitude Melancholic: Lines 2-3 Cynical (doubtful) Ironic: line 81 Despair: “And we drown” Nostalgic Reflective (questions) Dark (loneliness, sadness) Regretful (things he didn’t accomplish; how will he be remembered and for what)
  16. 16. Shifts Train of thought: The train of thought shifts abruptly to resemble the way the human mind works. (line 70/75) Topic of Discussion: The narrative can go from discussing Prufrock’s bald spot and clothes to time and the universe. (line 40) Universal to Particular: Throughout the poem, there are shifts from Universal diction to Particular diction. Universal diction includes: “the muttering retreats”(line 6) and “the women come and go” (line 13). Particular diction includes: “Michelangelo”(line 14) and “October”(line 21). Obvious Allusions to Oblique Allusions: Prufrock is constantly making references to historical or fictional characters, places or things. Obvious allusions include: “Michelangelo” (line 14) and “Hamlet” (line111). Oblique Allusions include: : “to have squeezed the universe into a ball” (line 92) is a variation of a line written by poet Andrew Marvell. Eliot wanted to show that Prufrock was well read and held onto bits and pieces of what was in his memory, like all of us.
  17. 17. Title (revised) Originally called “Prufrock among the Women” One of the definitions of “Love Song” is narrative poem, which the poem is. It presents a moment in the life of the tittle character. The work has characteristics of a love song through repetition, rhyme and rhythm. Focus on the womanly love that avoids Prufrock J. Alfred Prufrock is mimicking of the way T. S. Eliot signed his name: T. Stearns Eliot Prufrock was the name of a furniture company in Eliot’s hometown Only place where Prufrock’s name is mentioned Biographical poem Title is pretending to be serious
  18. 18. Themes Love Appearances Passivity Time Past and future Paralysis Lines 2-3 Hamlet Revolves around his social and sexual anxieties Inability to act Manipulation Death Dante's Inferno Anxiety Of the future and aging Temporal Repetition Lines 13-14 and 35-36 Tendency to get stuck on a problem
  19. 19. Themes (cont’d) Alienation/Loneliness Indecision Inadequacy Pessimism Fragmentation Key term in modern literature The accumulation of numerous and varied signs The city Prufrock describes is fragmented: scattered collections of streets The population is fragmented: alone and lost Fragmentation evident in imagery: specific and symbolic. Fog and cat (16) Eyes and pins (58) Prufrock and claws (73)
  20. 20. Discussion Questions Describe the person Eliot creates in Prufrock. How does Prufrock fulfill or contradict stereotypes of modern intellectuals? How do Guido da Montefeltro and the epigraph from Dante’s Inferno fit into the poem? The poem ends with Prufrock drowning in the sea. Was it real or a dream? How does it relate to the rest of the poem? Does it make sense? Is it supposed to? How does Eliot use the relationships between men and women to comment on society and culture? Which Shakespearean character does Prufrock most identify with? A.) Hamlet B.) Claudius C.) Polonius D.) Ophelia E.) Yorick

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