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Thread: 'Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock' Help!

  1. #1
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    'Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock' Help!

    Does anyone know what is Eliot's attitude to Prufrock? Does he pity or hate him?
    Last edited by Dooki; 02-12-2005 at 08:58 AM.

  2. #2
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    Wow! I had never read this poem until now, but I fell in love. I have always thought highly of T.S. Eliot, especially for another of his famous poems, The Wasteland, but I found The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock far more beautiful and easier to understand.
    For people who have not yet read it:

    The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question...
    Oh, do not ask, `` What is it? ''
    Let us go and make our visit.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening.
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains.
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys.
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

    And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;
    Time for you and time for me.
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, ``Do I dare?'' and, ``Do I dare?''
    Time to turn back and descend the stair,
    With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
    [They will say: ``How his hair is growing thin!'']
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
    [They will say: ``But how his arms and legs are thin!'']
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    For I have known them all already, known them all:
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
    So how should I presume?

    And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
    The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
    And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
    When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
    Then how should I begin
    To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
    And how should I presume?

    And I have known the arms already, known them all--
    Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
    [But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
    Is it perfume from a dress
    That makes me so digress?
    Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
    And should I then presume?
    And how should I begin?
    . . . . .
    Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
    And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
    Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

    I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
    . . . . .
    And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
    Smoothed by long fingers,
    Asleep. . . tired . . . or it malingers,
    Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
    Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
    I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
    Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
    Would it have been worth while,
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
    To say: `` I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all''--
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: ``That is not what I meant at all.
    That is not it, at all.''

    And would it have been worth it, after all,
    Would it have been worth while,
    After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
    After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor--
    And this, and so much more?--
    It is impossible to say just what I mean!
    But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
    Would it have been worth while
    If one, settling a pillow, or throwing off a shawl,
    And turning toward the window, should say:
    ``That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all.''
    . . . . .
    No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

    I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me.

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    When the wind blows the water white and black.

    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

    To answer your question, Dooki: I do not think that Eliot necessarily dislikes Prufrock, but he does pity him in an ambiguous manner. Eliot, in a word, I think, finds Prufrock petty and lugubriously talkative (hence the ideas of "overwhelming questions" and "tedious arguments"). Eliot, I think, rather enjoys the company of Prufrock, but finds silence with him far more satisfying than his "insidious intents;" hence also Eliot's incessant distractions with "women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo."
    A very good distinction between T.S. Eliot's poetry and others of his time defines their differences between his often over-descriptions of setting, but how his abstractions of scenery define the mood (common of more classical poetry). The colors Eliot uses, I think, plays a lot into the feel of the poem: yellow fog, brown hair, and the small mentionings of always taking tea and coffee, and placing himself in the positions of Prince Hamlet; with these aspects, I feel that Eliot thinks highly of Prufrock, but finds his discussions rather petty.
    Good luck!

  3. #3
    the poem is in the form of dramatic monologue, the persona who is speaking, i think, is prufrock himself, an internal dialogue- the quote from dante is something like, if i wre in the world of men i would not dare to answer you question, but as i am in hell i will say it ( i dont remember what the quote was, and dont have a copy of the poem handy, but i believe that is the gist of it) so there is the notion of something that is not said overground, but an underlying feeling put into words, the subconscious speaking, if you like. i think the tone of the poem is one of mockery, but self mockery, Prufrock recognises that he is no great tragic lover, no Hamlet, he is an upper middle class, middle age man in a world of taking tea, light, repetitive conversation. he is resigned, he doesnt dare to break the hum of mediocrity aroung him with some drastic declaration or action. that is why the last lines are so affecting to me- its like hes carried away with his dreams of poetic mermaids but he is woken from this dream- like in those loony toons cartoons when a character will have the hanging cliff fall from under them but stay there standing on air- but then they look down and realise they are defying the laws of physics and so they fall- he is in his dream of mermaids and love, when human voices wake him, he drowns. well anyway, those are my thoughts, i really do like the poem, i particularly like the image of the very neat, conservative, respectable pin on his collar, that he later uses to suggest hes pinned down like an insect in a display cabinet. i think the tone of the poem is wistfull, bitter but humorous and i think Eliot treats Prufrock with respect, the mocking tone is prufrock's own.

  4. #4
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    I don't think there's any hatred in the poem. there is some regretful pity to it - eg. Prufrock's unwillingness to age
    (I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. )

    he also has some fascination with death, (the mermaids singing - mermaids were throught to lure sailors to their deaths with music), but we are not meant to be repulsed by this

  5. #5
    X (or) Y=X and Y=-X Jean-Baptiste's Avatar
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    Is there any better expression of pointlessness and impotence coupled with persistent desire than

    "I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    scuttling across the floors of silent seas"

    I think the entire poem is centered by this couplet. It's nearly a perfect metaphor for Prufrock's entire existence. He would be just as well as such.
    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

    James Joyce, the pirate. Why don't you write books people can read? -Nora Barnacle

    Insupportable claim: Reading my stories will make you a better person. Do your best to prove me right.

  6. #6
    dreamer genoveva's Avatar
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    I think Prufrock is Eliot! (i.e. I think this is an autobiographical poem)
    "I have so often dreamed of you that you become unreal." ~ Robert Desnos

  7. #7
    At first glance, the sheer length of the Prufrock put me off. But then, I returned to itÖ determined to give it another go. And you know what? I was enchanted. To all those out there who have not tried reading the poem, I would urge you to give it one more chance. I promise you wonít be disappointed. There is also an excellent site for information on The Love Song of J alfred Prufrock that was very helpful when I hit upon some stumbling blocks while reading the poem. Check it out. One thing I especially admired about Eliot in this work is his ability to offer multiple sides to his speaker. Prufrock at the same time comes across as a sneaky trickster, stalling and pulling us into his world, confusing us all along. Then comes Prufrock the fool whose comic attempts to be sophisticated and cool are hilariously apparent. But at the end of it, we are left with Prufrock as a sad honest man who canít even convince himself of his own stories. At no point of time in the entire poem does one version overtake the others and therein lies Eliotís genius

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