Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Essay: In Depth Analysis

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In Depth Analysis of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The five-line interlude ending on "the floors of silent seas" forms an encapsulated version of the remainder of the poem, in which the frustrated effort to establish purposive discourse leads once again to withdrawal downward and inward to a silent world of instinctual being. A return to images of distension and distracting sensuality provokes a final impulse toward violent imposition of the will--"to force the moment to its crisis"--which ends, like previous thoughts of disturbing the universe, in ruthless self-mockery. The image of decapitation parodies the theme of disconnected being and provides for at least a negative definition of the self: "I am no prophet."

By this point the tense has quietly shifted from present to past, and the speaker offers a series of prolonged interrogatives on the consequences of action not taken. While its grammatical context ("And would it have been worth it") reduces it to the contemplation of "what might have been"; the language and imagery of this passage enact with renewed intensity the recurring drama of mental conflict:

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 towards some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all."

The infinitives in this passage--to have bitten, to have squeezed, to roll--conform to the poem's widespread use of transitive verbs of direct action in expressing the speaker's violent impulse to combat the forces of disorder: to murder and create, to disturb the universe, to spit out all the butt-ends, to force the moment.

The poem's ling...

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...hich the author has elected to work, may itself evoke other psychic material; and then, lines of poetry may come into being, not from the original impulse, but from a secondary stimulation of the unconscious mind." The mental forces at work in Eliot's description of the poetic process serve as an analogy to the conflicts besetting the speaker in Prufrock. The speaker is a failed poet in terms of his inability to "murder" existing structures in order to "create" anew; be finds it impossible to say what be wants to say. In the "secondary stimulation of the unconscious mind" that occurs at this point, he partly abandons and partly resolves the struggle of form and matter; the integration of the psyche remains at best incomplete.


Works Cited

Conflicts in Consciousness: T.S. Eliot’s Poetry and Criticism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984.



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