TS Eliot Prufrock Sample Essay

In what ways is Eliot’s ‘The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’ . an illustration of modernist composing? Discuss this in relationship to organize every bit good as content. Although TS Eliot’s The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock contains many of the stylistic conventions that are now associated with modernist poesy. TS Eliot’s place on the established art signifiers and spiritual hierarchy that many authors of his coevals rejected. and how this influenced Eliot’s composing of Prufrock. is extremely problematic. In Modernism: The New Critical Idiom Peter Childs of the University of Gloucestershire writes that these stylistic conventions were: ‘moves to interrupt from the iambic pentameter as the basic unit of poetry. to present Vers Libre. symbolism. and other new signifiers of writing’ ( Childs. 2008. pg. 3 ) .

In the composing of Prufrock TS Eliot utilized a signifier of symbolism apparently really similar to that outlined by the Imagist motion in the Imagists Manifesto ( Imagists. 1915. pg. 269 ) . Alternatively of merely stating the reader Prufrock’s emotions. Eliot relied on the ‘objects’ within the verse form to convey Prufrock’s ideas and feelings. The most graphic illustration of imagist divine symbolism within The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock is the image of the yellow smoke which occurs several times throughout the verse form: The xanthous fog that rubs its dorsum upon the window-panes

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The xanthous fume that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes ( Eliot. 1915. line 16-17 )

Here the xanthous fog. evocative of the smog that was common to most industrial metropoliss. is the personification of Death in ‘Prufrock. Death takes the signifier of a cat like marauder. a carefree and yet malicious animate being than can look none-threatening. even playful. By stating that the xanthous fog rubs its dorsum and muzzle on the window window glasss is connoting that it can non go forth the confines of the metropolis streets and that it can non come in houses or topographic points of concern. This indicates that Prufrock feels in most danger when he’s out in the metropolis streets.

Eliot’s usage of vers libre was most likely inspired by American poet Walt Whitman. and more specifically his 1855 poesy aggregation Leaves of Grass. The manner of metre. which Marianne Moore said to be “in sequence of the musical phrase. non in the sequence of a metronome ( Moore. 1926. pg. 429 ) reflected Whitman’s position of the beauty of the pandemonium of the natural universe ( Whitman. 1855. pg. 94 ) whilst for the modernists it captured the ‘panorama of futility and lawlessness which is modern-day history’ ( Eliot. 1923 ) . TS Eliot made heavy usage of vers libre in the composing of Prufrock. in order to better utilize the page infinite and to add dignities to the poem’s single constituents:

Do I make bold
Disturb the existence?
In a minute there is clip
For determinations and alterations which a minute will change by reversal
( Eliot. 1915. line 45-49 )

Here it can be seen that the lines which have greatest ‘gravitas of connotation’ to Prufrock are given the most room. Prufrock’s inquiry is separated into two lines as for him it has two different parts. As the top line: ‘Do I dare’ . straight addressed Prufrock himself it is given its ain line. To Prufrock the inquiry of whether or non he should ‘Disturb the universe’ has equal dignities to the act itself and so has its ain line. By stating that “In a minute there is time/For determinations and alterations which a minute will reverse” Prufrock is acknowledging that in a minute he would hold made the determination. but shortly plenty after he would hold gone back on that determination.

It has been frequently claimed that the modernist poets used poetry libre to step off from the iambic pentameter and other popular poetic signifiers that had antecedently defined popular poesy ( Eliot. 1917 ) . TS Eliot nevertheless refused to see the difference between vers libre and traditionally written poesy. In his essay Reflections on Vers Libre TS Eliot wrote two old ages after the publication of Prufrock that:

Vers libre [ … ] is a battle-cry of freedom. and there is no freedom in art. And as the alleged vers libre. which is good is anything but ‘free’ . it can better be defended under some other label. Particular types of vers libre may be supported on the pick of content. or on the method of managing the content. I am cognizant that many authors of vers libre have introduced such inventions. and that the freshness of their pick and use of stuff is confused–if non in their ain heads. in the heads of many of their readers–with the freshness of the signifier [ … ] If vers libre is a echt verse-form it will hold a positive definition. And I can specify it merely in negatives: ( 1 ) absence of form. ( 2 ) absence of rime. ( 3 ) absence of meter. ( Eliot. 1917 ) .

Rachel Wezsteon would subsequently summarize Eliot’s essay as because the English ear was used to a certain sound within poesy. it would constantly return to that sound even if seeking to compose in vers libre. So to Eliot there was no such thing as vers libre because the poetry was no freer than traditional written poesy. Alternatively. there is merely subjectively ‘Good’ . ‘Bad’ and ‘chaotic’ poesy. ( Wezsteon. 2009 ) .

Prufrock’s feelings of experiential angst were non alone to him. nor are they alone to the verse form. These feelings were common to most modernist literature – both poesy and prose. since the beginning of the 20th century. Prufrock is alone amongst Modernist Writing in that here Eliot has managed so absolutely to summarize an full coevalss feelings of experiential angst and nihilism in the ideas of one adult male – Prufrock himself. Prufrock’s nihilistic feelings are best summarised when he muses that ‘I have measured out my life with java spoons…’ ( TS Eliot. 1915 ) . These iconic lines are both Eliot’s supercilious remark on the modern universe and his jubilation of it at the same clip. Ultimately Prufrock’s nihilistic mind decides that he can non alter and that he has wasted his life:

And so there will be clip
To inquire. “Do I make bold? ” and. “Do I make bold? ”
Time to turn back and fall the step.
With a bald topographic point in the center of my hair— [ They will state: “How his hair is turning thin! ” ]My forenoon coat. my collar mounting steadfastly to the mentum.
My necktie rich and modest. but asserted by a simple pin— [ They will state: “But how his weaponries and legs are thin! ” ]Do I make bold
Disturb the existence?
In a minute there is clip
For determinations and alterations which a minute will change by reversal.
[ … ] ( TS Eliot. 1915. line 37-49 )

In this portion of the soliloquy Prufrock is showing his belief that. if he does venture out into the universe he will constantly run into with ridicule. He dreads what people will believe of his visual aspect.

As modernist composing ‘reveals a interrupting off from [ … ] traditions [ … ] fresh ways of looking at man’s place and map in the universe…’ ( JA Cuddon. 1997. pg. 517 ) many modernist authors. such as TS Eliot became oppositions of both the Realist and Romantic motions that had held artistic monopoly since the early nineteenth century. and the doctrines that had become entwined with them. such as Naturalism. As the narration of the lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock is the jubilation of the metropolis. about a adult male traveling out into the dark into the metropolis. and taking charge of his life it is a cardinal rejection of the naturalism’s thought of the dystopia of the cityscape. Modernism is of course entwined with the growing of the modern metropolis nevertheless the lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock embraces the metropolis to a point in which about creates its ain empyreal – ‘Sublime of the City’ .

With the rejection of the assorted pre-modern literary signifiers besides came a rejection of conventional theism and the religious subjects that had inspired them. Because of this modernism is now mostly considered a secular motion ( Roston. 2000. pg. 43 ) . However TS Eliot made heavy usage of spiritual subject. mention and symbolism within The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. . an illustration of which can be seen when Prufrock thinks to himself that:

And would it hold been deserving it. after all
Among the porcelain. among some talk of you and me
Would it hold been worthwhile.
To hold bitten off the affair with a smiling
To hold squeezed the existence into a ball
To state ‘I am Lazarus. come from the dead.
Come back to state you all. I shall state you ; –
If one. settling a pillow by her caput.
Should state: ‘that is non what I meant at all.
That is non it. at all’
( Eliot. 1915. line 87-99 )

Here Prufrock has turned to contemplation. By stating. “I am Lazarus. come from the dead. ” Prufrock is comparing his state of affairs to the decease. and the Resurrection of the scriptural Lazarus. However Eliot is overthrowing outlooks one time once more. but in this illustration he is overthrowing two traditional outlooks. Although Prufrock’s soliloquy makes usage of Judeo-christian mentions it is merely a soliloquy ; Prufrock. like the modernist motion as a whole is secular and is merely utilizing these things as comparings. Eliot on the other manus is utilizing them them in order to supply a larger mention to society as a whole. Unlike the other modernists Eliot couldn’t make-believe that his work was wholly new ( Eliot. 1919. pg. 366 ) . and so he embraced the spiritual thematic stuff that was familiar to the populace. and was common in so many of his front-runner plants and so beloved to him.

In drumhead in the composing of the Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock TS Eliot made usage of all the stylistic conventions that are now normally associated with Modernistic poesy including vers libre and imagist symbolism. Like many pieces of modernist composing experiential angst is a cardinal subject of the Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. Eliot’s composing manner was much more traditional than his coevalss. but for the composing of Prufrock Eliot took what he needed from older signifiers of literature. and common spiritual imagination and overthrow them in such a manner that both the modernists and the populace would understand Prufrock’s job.


Childs. P. . 2008. Modernism the New Critical Idiom. 2nd Edition. Cornwall:
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