Love and Death in Eliot 's Prufrock Essay

  • Length: 3 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Poetry / Poets
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #52726161

Excerpt from Essay :

New Criticism and Eliot's Prufrock

Eliot's use of tone, imagery and symbol in "Prufrock" allows him to create a poem that does two things at once: on the one hand it mocks modern culture and on the other hand it impresses upon the reader the fact that it is okay to reject all of this and search for the deeper somethingness -- that higher question that no one seems to want to ask. This paper will show how the poem uses irony, tone, image and symbol to convey a sense of the emptiness of modern culture to the reader using a seductive, fun, hypnotic way with words.

The tone of Eliot's "Prufrock" is overwhelmingly ironic: the poem plays up the tone of triviality while simultaneously skewering the triviality of the characters it describes. The poem lures the reader to the precipice of sanity -- pointing out the insanity and utter emptiness of modern culture and prompting the reader to ask a profound question -- but just when that is about to happen, the narrator dismisses the question with, "Oh do not ask, 'What is it?' / Let us go and make our visit." This attitude is reflective of the type of non-thinking, non-critical attitude of the people who go to see the Michelangelo at the art museum. They are interested only in the experience of going to see it -- they are socializing, not really critically looking at the art and connecting the art to culture or culture to meaning or meaning to belief/principles. They are wandering, free
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floating, as though cut off from all moorings. They are like the streets described in the first stanza -- "tedious" and "insidious" because they both distract from the all-important underlying question being presented the reader in this mocking manner and because their aim is to kill the soul of the reader and prevent the question from ever being asked. What is the question? The question is connected to the next world -- the afterlife -- that which Lazarus saw and knew and could speak of since he was brought back from the dead. Indeed, the reference to Lazarus indicates that the question is religious in nature and most likely has to do with Christ (was He real? Does it matter?), especially since Michelangelo is the representative of the Renaissance Christianity with his beautiful works of art. The people are passing by and seeing the Michelangelo but only chattering about it superficially. There is no depth, no understanding, no real exchange of meaning going on. The important question is not asked. As McNamara puts it, "the tone surrounds these aimless, ethereal women, speaking of an intensely physical artist, with an aura of seemingly undeserved grandeur" (360). Things, put simply, do not match: everything is in discord -- yet the narrator wants to gloss over all this even while admitting it to be so.

The important question is also linked to humanity. Why should "human voices wake us" and cause us to drown? The answer is simple: we, like Prufrock, are floating in…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Altieri, Charles. "Objective Image and Act of Mind in Modern Poetry." PMLA, vol. 91,

no. 1 (Jan., 1976): 101-114.

McNamara, Robert. "Prufrock and the Problem of Literacy." Contemporary Literature, vol. 27, no. 3 (Autumn, 1986): 356-377.

Smith, Gerald. "Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Explicator, vol. 21, no. 2

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