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The image of the fog is significant because the protagonist is comparing himself to the fog in that he skirts along the outside of what is happening. If he is like fog, moving slowly and quietly, he does not have to become involved but can still see what is going on. When he writes that there will be time to "prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" (27), he is simply avoiding the issue by putting off the inevitable. The protagonist convinces himself that there will be time to do all that he wants to do, such as "murder and create" (28), and "drop a question on your plate" (30). Allan Burns suggests that the images are important to the reader in that they "underscore Prufrock's low self-esteem: he identifies with the lonely working class men" (Burns 47) and the image of his dead being chopped off "indicates his fear of attractive women and its unhealthy relation to his even greater fear of death" (47). Death is alluded to as the "eternal Footman" that presents the protagonist from entering the party
Time is an essential element to both protagonists and their sense of alienation. With "A Rose for Emily," time becomes critical to the narration of the story. The narrator shifts between the past and the present to keep us guessing about Emily and her story. By constantly shifting, the narrator allows us to have a complete picture of Emily. It is also interesting to note how the story begins and end with death. Time literally stands still from the first lines to the last, which emphasizes Emily's primary problem with time, which is the fact that she cannot deal with the passing of time and what that means. Emily would much rather have time stand still because then she would not have to deal with the changing community around her. Emily cannot let go of the past and this is demonstrated at her funeral, when some of the old men there are wearing "brushed Confederate uniforms" (Faulkner 458). In addition, the narrator writes, "the past is not a diminishing road, but, instead a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches" (458). Another issue Emily has with time is the fact that she wants to control it. This can be seen with the men in her life. When her father dies, she wants to stop time by keeping his dead body in her home for some three days before the aldermen come to take it away. Emily's desire to control time is best displayed with her murder of Homer. She decides that she will have him one way or another and it does not disturb her that he might be dead because at least he is with her.
With "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the protagonist is obsessed with time, which can be seen as an extension of his obsession. He worries about wasting time and he also worries about whether he should waste time going up or down the staircase. He is torn and asks himself, "Do I dare?" (Eliot 37). He is far too concerned about what others are thinking about him all of the time and he wastes time worrying about things that do not matter. He turns himself into a neurotic person incapable of moving because he is so worried about time and wasting time but the great irony is that by worrying about wasting time, he wastes even more time. He knows his greatest regret will be that he wasted time but yet he cannot do anything but stand still. His thoughts are is greatest enemy because they prevent him from action.
"A Rose for Emily" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" are amazing pieces of literature because they allow us to look at the development of these characters. They are not so eccentric that we would ever think they could not exist. In fact, it is the fact that they seem so real to us that makes the works stand out. Emily could very well be a neighbor living down the street and Prufrock could be living next to her. Both pieces of literature revolve around individuals that alienate themselves from the world and, as a result, they end up mourning the loss of something they never had. Imagery and the importance of time help thee authors express their meaning. Both authors illustrate the importance of connecting with others with these characters that willingly choose to remain distant from the communities. As such, both pieces of literature serve as warnings for what can happen to individuals when they allow themselves to become so removed from the world that they begin behaving and thinking irrationally when they should instead embrace the only life they will ever have.
Burns, Allan Douglas. Thematic Guide to American Poetry. Santa Barbara: Greenwood
Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press. 1993.
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