The persona’s perspective in ‘’The Love story of J. Alfred Prufrock’’ is explored through a plethora of interiors and interpretations that are a metaphoric representation of the tortured psyche of the prototypical modern man.
The plot at first opens with romantic connotation mixed in with dark imagery of Dante’s Inferno, the persona invites us (the readers) on a journey of self perspective, one may argue that the interiors/vignettes illuminate the feelings and expressions better than words itself. ‘’Half deserted streets…one night cheap hotels represents the motif of deceit lingering, the feeling of inadequacy and self -victimisation. The language and use of the word ‘’abyss’’ could be indicative of the fact that the protagonist is embarking on an escapade which he fears he may never return, ‘’but since never from this abyss has anyone ever returned alive’’, purgatory, a suspended hell.
The repetition of the constant mention of the ‘’women who come and go, talking of Michelangelo,’’ and his questioning of his belief and moral system, ‘’How should I presume, how should I begin, there will be time’’, may have been representing the consciousness of a modern, neurotic individual. The quote, ‘’a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas’’, portrays the analogy of crabs, bottom feeders. This may be interpreted as a representation of Prufrock’s alienation from society, how he feeds only on the remnants and is limited to fulfilling his base desires.
The recurring questions, ‘’Do I dare…turn back descend the stair….Do I dare disturb the universe’’, reeks of modernity, the pressure to conform to society’s expectations and his reluctance to accept that he will never be able to go back and change what could have been, ’’There will be time, indeed there will be time.’’ These lines may also suggest that he regrets something he has committed in his past or suffered from a huge sacrifice and that what he is experiencing now is penance for his wasted life of simply leisure and decadence.
Through the use of intertextuality, biblical and Shakespearean reference, the meaning of the plot thickens as Prufrock juxtaposes his life against Prince Hamlet, ‘’No I am not prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be’’, considering Hamlet borders on the abyss of insanity, it could be read as the start of acceptance. The ellipsis and anaphora represents time repeating itself, ‘’afternoon…. evening’’, could mean that he hasn’t had time to redeem himself which compliments the theory of the reference to ‘’Lazarus’’ and ‘’The eternal footman’’ . To relish the time he has left rather than live vicariously reminiscing his past, what could have been, what should have been achieved or obtained.
The tortured psyche of the protagonist is illustrated through the recurring questions of his beliefs, values, decisions and self worth. It is a classical overdramatised midlife crisis, self victimisation, evaluation of self worth, the conformation and increasing pressures to meet society’s expectations and his value and belief system (paradigm shift). This in and of itself may be an examination of the human psyche and prototypical modern man, displaying them as neurotic, overeducated and emotionally stilted.
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