Alfred Prufrock constantly lived in fear, in fear of life and death. T. S. Eliot divided his classic poem into three equally important sections. Each division provided the reader with insight into the mental structure of J. Alfred Prufrock. In actuality, Prufrock maintained a good heart and a worthy instinct, but he never seemed to truly exist. A false shadow hung over his existence. Prufrock never allowed himself to actually live. He had no ambitions that would drive him to succeed. The poem is a silent cry for help from Prufrock. In each section, T. S. Eliot provided his audience with vague attempts to understand J. Alfred Prufrock. Each individual reader can only interpret these attempts by Eliot, allowing numerous views of the life of Prufrock.
The first section of the poem dealt with the ever-prevalent issue of death. In the beginning, Eliot said, “Let us go then, you and I.”(l, 1 Eliot) The poem started off with this illusion to the Inferno as a way to symbolize Prufrock’s journey, and his fear of death. Prufrock could be looked upon as Virgil. In the poem, he guided the reader through his tangled world of existentialism. When Eliot said, “Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets…”(ll 3-4 Eliot) it showed that Prufrock was numb. He had no feelings for anyone or his surroundings. J. Alfred Prufrock only felt one thing. He felt the fear of life and death. In some ways, he spent his entire life preparing for his death. Prufrock knew that his life had not provided the world with anything of great significance. Eliot pointed this out by juxtaposing Prufrock with Michelangelo. In lines 13-14 Eliot said, “In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo.”(ll. 13-14 Eliot) The hollow people of the world base the merit of an individual upon their accomplishments. Prufrock’s fear to live never allowed him to accomplish anything. The issue of death emerged again in lines 26-27. In these lines Eliot said, “There will be time, there will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”(ll. 26-27 Eliot) This statement showed that Prufrock spent the majority of his time preparing for death. In lines 37-39 Eliot said, “And indeed there will be time to wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and ‘Do I dare?’ time to turn back and descend the stair.”(ll. 37-39 Eliot) This line showed that Prufrock felt that he was bound to Hell. Prufrock constantly lived in fear of death. This fear caused him to not be able to live.
In the second section, Prufrock realized the error of his ways. He came to the understanding that being afraid to live was no way to live his life. Eliot summed up the entire reasoning of Prufrock in the following line, “And in short, I was afraid.”(l 86 Eliot) Prufrock spent his entire life in a wasteland because he did not have the courage to live. At this point he knew that there was no opportunity to regain the years that he lost. In lines 92-98 Eliot said,
“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 shall
If one, settling pillow by her head,
Should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.'”(ll. 92-98 Eliot)
These lines showed how desperately he wanted a second chance at life. This second section illustrated a change in the personality of J. Alfred Prufrock. The change just came too late. The vast part of his life had escaped him.
The final section of the poem J. Alfred Prufrock begins to actually live. He now understood that taking some chances are worth the possible risks. He now wanted to grow old and enjoy his final years. The following lines revealed his new outlook on life,
“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.”(ll. 122-124 Eliot)
The Prufrock of the first half of the poem would have never done anything quite so daring. When Eliot mentioned the mermaids, it showed that Prufrock now searched for love. The mermaids also showed that his imagination had been sparked. For the final part of Prufrock’s life, there was a tiny bit of hope.
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was a silent cry for help. Prufrock entered into a world where he could not survive. He became a man with no life. In the end he desired for a second chance. He wanted a new opportunity in which he could actually live. Prufrock realized that living in fear of death was no way to live. A life like that made him afraid to live. J. Alfred Prufrock was a basically good individual. He just had one flaw a flaw that cost him his life. J. Alfred Prufrock never attempted to live until it was too late.
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