Loneliness in Metamorphosis and The Love Song of J. Arthur Prufrock Essay

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Franz Kafka’s character Gregor Samsa and T.S. Eliot’s speaker J. Alfred Prufrock are perhaps two of the loneliest characters in literature. Both men lead lives of isolation, loneliness, and lost chances, and both die knowing that they have let their lives slip through their fingers, as sand slips through the neck of an hourglass. As F. Scott Fitzgerald so eloquently put it, “the loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly”. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” are both exceptional examples of such lonely moments. Both authors use characterization, imagery, and atmosphere to convey the discontentedness and lack of fulfillment in the life and death of both Samsa and Prufrock.
Eliot and Kafka characterize their respective characters as having negative self-images, a prior lack of success, and as being fundamentally lonely. Prufrock views himself as undesirable, and his self-image seems to grow worse with age. While Prufrock has the chance early on to make something of his life, he sits in a room, presumably one in which there is a display of artwork, and “the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo” (ll. 13-14). Prufrock goes by unnoticed next to what could be the beautiful works of Michelangelo. It can especially be presumed that he feels inadequate next to the Statue of David, a sculpture for which Michelangelo is famous. As time goes on, his feelings of inadequacy increase when he begins to fear what others will think of his aged appearance, for “They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’” and “They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’” (ll. 41, 44). Prufrock’s lack of self-confid...

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...emonstrative of Prufrock’s longing for the women; even though he is on the inside with them, he still lingers hesitantly like the fog. This is later reinforced by Prufrock stating that he has “gone at dusk…and watched the smoke that rises from the pipes / Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows” (ll.70-73). Both Prufrock and Samsa long for things they cannot have, because they are afraid to take a chance.
Eliot and Kafka use images of insects as well, although for different purposes. Eliot’s use of insects portrays Prufrock as being an insect “pinned and wriggling on the wall” being observed as an object of study (l.58). This is indicative of Prufrock’s anxiety and neurosis as he feels judged by everyone he meets, especially the women. Kafka’s use of insect imagery is prevalent throughout the entire novella, as Samsa has transformed into a giant bug.

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