T.S. 1888: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

ts 1888

Come one, come all, the first installment of my T.S. Eliot series is here!

Just to reiterate, T.S. 1888 is a series that I’m going to start on TABL.  Each installment will be a review on an Eliot poem and topics such as Modernism, themes, and potential context will talked about.  It’s also a reeaaaallyy good idea if you have a copy of the poems that’ll be discussed in these posts so you can read along and understand what I’m talking about, and which lines I’m referring to (because I won’t be posting the whole poems here, only snippets).  With your own copy of the poem, you can observe your own findings and interpretations, and most of them should be attainable online (Poetry Foundation, anyone?).  These posts will come up once in a while, and you’ll know it’s part of series because I’ll be putting the same graphic on the blog (the one above).  So, we will start with The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and then we’ll explore his other poems, well-known or not.  Now let’s get to it!

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock focuses on the musings of a man in his middle age, and silently vents his frustrations about life, love, loneliness, and growing old as he makes his way towards a tea party.  The form of the poem itself can be considered free verse, as there is no set metrical metre, but there are rhymes scattered within the poem, but those themselves are irregular; fragmented, in a typical Modernist manner.  Additionally, there are lines that are artfully repeated.

The Italian epigraph of the poem is a passage from Dante’s Inferno; words said by Count Guido da Montefeltro’s eternally damned soul, and is translated as:

‘If I thought my answer were to one who ever could return to the world, this flame should shake no more; but since none ever did return alive from this depth, if what I hear to be true, without fear of infamy I answer thee.’

So it can be stated that the epigraph foreshadows that Prufrock is or will be damned, and perhaps his Hell is on Earth.  Prufrock goes on a stroll to an evening gathering, but cannot bring himself to enter and participate.  He is an example of a Modernist protagonist because he is enveloped in his despair to the point it is almost crippling. He is tormented by the circumstances he is in, and does not attempt to overcome his insecurities and anxieties, and instead wallows in them without the aim to resolve them.

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