Since its initial publication in the early-twentieth century, T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" has challenged readers' assumptions about poetry.  This is a very challenging poem, and to better understand it (since we ran out of time during class), you might want to check out some commentary.  The Sparknotes on this poem are adequate, but I think that Shmoop does a better job on this one, and it is a much more interesting site.  http://www.shmoop.com/love-song-alfred-prufrock/

Once you feel comfortable with the poem, post a message that responds to one of the statements below. You can say why you agree or disagree with a statement, or how you might want to modify it so it better reflects your understanding of the poem. Your response should include references to the poem, and at least two actual quotations from the poem (with line numbers).

  • Poems such as "Prufrock" are less direct than more conventional poetry, but they leave the reader with more to think about.
  • In several places, "Prufrock" reflects the modernist disillusionment with life in the early-twentieth century.
  • Many of the modernist ideas underlying "Prufrock" are still meaningful today.

As a follow-up posting, comment on the ideas in a classmate's posting, explaining why you agree or disagree with those ideas.

 


Comments

Kendall
04/09/2013 8:46pm

I wouldn't say that "these" types of poems necessarily leave the reader with more to think about then conventional poems but they definitely keeping you wondering. Both types of poems have their own way of leaving the reader with more to think about. I think with more conventional poems the reader is left with hope and questioning how humans can achieve the vision of a better world or place in which that particular poem has led the reader to believe is real. With Modernist poems like "Prufrock" the reader is left more confused and dumbfounded then hopeful and inspired. I say this because in Eliot's poem "Prufrock" he talks mostly about insignificant events that don't have any affect on the world except for maybe that humans are scared of rejection so therefore very few take life altering risks. "And in short, I was afraid" (line 86). Besides Eliot's point that people fear rejection, I find it hard to see a deeper meaning in the poem. The poem revolves solely around him and how he has all the time in the world to do all the really important stuff he needs to do in life. "Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions." (Lines 31-33) Over all, I definitely think these poems leave the reader with more to think about but not the same things to think about as conventional poems do. These poems leave the reader more questioning the point of the poem rather then relating to the poem, as some readers do with conventional poems.

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04/10/2013 5:29pm

I can definitely agree with the assertion that poems like "Prufrock" are more confusing and difficult to read. However, once the general idea begins to be established, I think that such poems can be understood (although they occasionally demand more brainpower of me than I am willing to give). In addition, poems like this can be much more interesting and thought provoking than the conventional poems, in part because they can contain so many more layers than conventional poems and in part because they read very like an abstract story: the fragments all come together to create a word picture.

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Hannah H.
04/10/2013 8:54pm

I completely agree, and love the way you explained it. I think it gives the reader more to think about is a subtle way, unlike most conventional poems. And it is definitely more confusing!

Ariana
04/10/2013 7:49pm

I completely agree on how the reader feels and questions different things when reading these to different styles of poetry. I really liked how you brought up the point that he talks about himself a lot and how he feels versus how people feel as a whole or in general. Good job!

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Kelti Lorence
04/10/2013 9:56am

#3. Since the beginning of time there have always been people living in fear of their worth and purpose in life. Eliot states in the middle of his remorse "I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of the silent seas" (line 73/74) and ends the poem "linger(ing) in the chambers of the sea/ Till human voices wake us, and we drown." (line 129/131). His entire poem reflects the strain of indecision that attempting to meet societies approval can put on a person. Lines 85/86 spotlight this theory: "I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker,/ And in short, I was afraid." He worries that he will not have the time to make something of his life before it ends. However, also fearing the thoughts of others keeps him from taking any action. Though society today, for the most part, encourages individualism, growth, and "shooting for the stars", fear of failure and rejection will always live in each and every one of us.

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Brady
04/10/2013 9:40pm

I agree with society always putting pressure and making people fear failure and rejection, but do you think that this fear is greater now or then?

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Sam Farmer
04/30/2013 1:39pm

I agree that people today, too, are in fear of finding their purpose on earth. I personally have asked myself this question several times.

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04/10/2013 5:19pm

2. There is much that supports the modernist disillusionment with life in the poem "The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock." The tone of the poem is one way that the speaker portrayed this. For example, setting is used to create a dull, dark feeling that later reveals the speaker's feeling that his life is useless. "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes..." (line 15) is not a happy image but one of a strangeness and dullness and brings to mind images of cities shrouded in fog. The fog could represent a cloud of illusion on society, causing it to be blind to its faults. If this is the case, then not only does the fog serve to show that the speaker is displeased and tired with life, but it also is an example of disillusionment because of the fact that the speaker is noticing it. A disappointed and weary tone is also reflected later on in the poem. For instance, in lines 49-51 the speaker seems frustrated: "For I have known them all already, known them all --/ Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,/ I have measured out my life with coffee spoons..." Life, in other words, seems meaningless, monotonous; the speaker has no happy illusions about life. Therefore, the tone produced is one of misery, disappointment, monotony, and frustration. Towards the very end of the poem, it becomes even more clear that the speaker is disillusioned toward life. Perhaps the most revealing line is line 120: "I grow old...I grow old." The speaker sees that time is passing quickly and mercilessly, and so laments at what he has not done. The speaker seems to see his life laid out behind him like a carpet, and what he sees is monotony, repetitiveness, and indecision. Altogether, the speaker's tone clearly shows a disillusionment toward his life. He does not try to make it better or of more value than he thinks it realistically has. This reflects modernist views toward life very well.

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Ariana
04/10/2013 7:46pm

3. Many of the modernist ideas underlying "Prufrock" are still meaningful today.
I would agree with this statement because in " Prufrock" Eliot talks about the same ideas that society discuss today, in our day of age. Eliot explains the narrators remorse and regret in lines 109-110 by saying, " 'That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all.' ". The narrator also conveys his inner battles of his self worth and self confidence issues which all people deal with no matter what the time period is. In line 27 he says, " To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" and in lines 39-41, " To wonder, ' Do I dare?' and, ' Do I dare?' Time to turn back and descend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hair- [ They will say: ' How his hair is growing thin!' ". He questions rather or not individualism is a good thing in line 45, " Do I dare disturb the universe?". In today's society it is looked highly upon on when a person in individual and not conforming to society; but this was not acceptable back then. The narrator continually struggles with the idea of whether to or not to conform to society.

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Trevor
04/10/2013 10:26pm

I agree that conforming is a huge part of this poem. I think that it is a lot easier to not to conform in today's society than in Prufrock's day. Today, people are encouraged to be different so that they can find their own personal limits.

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Sam Farmer
04/30/2013 1:41pm

I agree with the comment about inner battles. Everyone, no matter what time period they were from, has faced some sort of internal battle.

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Hannah H
04/10/2013 8:50pm

I would agree that many of the modernist ideas underlying "Prufrock" are still meaningful today. The title, "The love song of J.Alfted Prufrock "adresses one of these themes; love. Lines 38-40, express an idea of insicurity, saying, "" Do I dare?"and "Do I dare?"/ .../ With a bald spot in the middle of my hair." Another big theme that is both adressed in "Prufrock" and today is that of time. The whole forth stanza is an allusion to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, saying, "indeed there will be time." (line 23) Today many, if not all, people struggle with these same ideas. Everyone is in search of love, and this despirate longing can make us insecure. Often we are afriad that time will run out before we have found true love or before we have reached our goals, without hope these ideas can turn into anxiety, as was common in the moderistic era.

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Celeste Yahr
04/10/2013 10:56pm

Hannah, I agree with you! I really like how you combined the look for love and the anxiety of not having time for it. I also think that the thought of not having enough time to do whatever we want to do it another problem.

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Kendall
04/11/2013 10:24am

I really liked your response Hannah. You did a really great job of expressing your opinion with lots of details and facts to back it up! I definitely agree with your idea that we are all in a way searching for our true love and fear that time will run out which makes us anxious. Great job!

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Tristan
04/22/2013 9:35pm

I agree. I wouldn't have noticed the connection you drew with love and that passage in Ecclesiastes. I also agree with your opinion about how love is still important.

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Brady
04/10/2013 9:38pm

I agree that many modernist ideas in "Prufock" are still meaningful today. I believe that the bachelor in the poem is struggling with one of the biggest internal struggles people face; insecurity. Line 38 is him questioning "Do I dare" and trying to overcome the thought of failure. Then in line 41 "And then how should I presume?" and later in lines 68-69 he says "And should I then presume?/ And how I should begin?" He is afraid of failure but is also bored with his life. People are afraid to get outside their comfort zone and try new things. This is a reflection of the modernist ideas. The world is becoming smaller due to modernization and communication technology and people are afraid and somewhat self-concious of how they will be perceived. Couple this with the anxiety of war and you can see why people would be unwilling to break their comfort zone.

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Mary Sine
04/10/2013 9:51pm

I completely agree with you. Our modern society is dealing with some of the same issues and anxiety that modernism dealt with. Insecurity is something that many people deal with everyday.

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Mary Sine
04/10/2013 9:48pm

1. Indirect poems like "Prufock" do make the reader think more about what the poem is saying, where as other poems tell the reader exactly what the poet thinks of something. However, most poems, whether written in a direct or indirect way, do invoke a lot of thinking for most readers, especially when analyzing the poetry. All of the references to other literary works and to the Bible in "Prufock" give the reader more to think about, all while making the poem more confusing in analysis. For example, in lines 13 and 14, "In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo." That line throws in a reference to Renaissance art and what for? Michelangelo isn't really an important part of the poem, so that makes the reader think, why was he referenced at all? The epigraph of the poem, lines 61-66 of "Inferno" by Dante, are also very though provoking. Starting the poem with a reference to Guido da Montefeltro a person who was in the eighth circle of Hell (and is worried about what living people will think of him, if he tells Dante why he is in Hell) really makes the reader think more about the poem, and wonder why Eliot wanted to reference Dante's "Inferno." Other lines throughout the poem also make the reader think more, especially the last stanza, lines 129 through 131, "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/ By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/ Till human voices wake us, and we drown." These lines leave the reader thinking about what "Prufock" may have really meant.

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Trevor
04/10/2013 10:04pm

In several places, "Prufrock" reflects the modernist disillusionment with life in the early-twentieth century. The biggest disillusionments are boredom and fear of the unknown. Prufrock clearly has way to much time on his hands. He questions weather he “dare eat a peach” (line 122). Anyone who has any type of life at all would never question weather eating a peach was a good idea. I know I could never turn down a peach. The fact that Prufrock is fussing over these insignificant choices proves that he is bored out of his mind. Prufrock’s fear of finding a girlfriend symbolizes society’s fear of associating with some of this new, mind blowing technology. The author explains how “we have lingered in the chambers of the sea” (line 129), meaning that people like Prufrock are hanging back and resisting the new technology and the new world that is emerging. He is encouraging people to escape the darkness of the deep sea before they drown, or suffer from the lack of knowledge of the modern world. I see this poem telling its readers to get out there and enjoy the world, or else bad things will happen to you.

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Mackenzie
04/11/2013 11:09am

Trevor, I agree with the fact that Prufrock has way too much time on his hands. Instead of actually exploring the world, he just sits around and questions it. Same thing with the technology. Prufrock lives with a fear that causes him to avoid any new experiences.

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Sam Farmer
04/30/2013 1:42pm

I agree with what you said about "fear of the unknown". I think we have all worried about where we will end up in life.

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Celeste Yahr
04/10/2013 10:50pm

1. Poems such as "Prufrock" are less direct than more conventional poetry, but they leave the reader with more to think about.
I do think that it gives people more to think about. The fact that it doesn't come out right and tell you what is being said makes it confusing. "In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo."(lines 13&14) Here Eliot could have said how women were acting more sophisticated then they really were, but instead he chose to make it complicated and imbedded. "And I have known the arms already, known them all—/Arms that are braceleted and white and bare/[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]/Is it perfume from a dress/That makes me so digress?/Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl./And should I then presume?/And how should I begin?"(lines62-69) Eliot could have had the narrator say that he had been with lots of woman and he doesn't know if he should keep seeing them or what he should be doing in general. He makes it so that you can come to your own conclusion about what he means. It is definitely indirect and confusing but helps everyone gets something a little different out of it.

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Mackenzie Cyr
04/11/2013 11:06am

Poems like 'The Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' are less direct than more conventional poetry, but I definitely believe that they leave readers with more to think about. With poems like 'Prufrock' readers must read more into what the poet is saying and I believe this often times causes readers to try and connect it with their life and their own emotions through experiences. In stanza seven I believe that when he is saying 'Do I dare?' he is asking if he should he even try to be different in the world he lives in. I believe that this is something everyone, in any time period asks themselves. It causes them to think about what they truly want from life and who they want to be. In the same stanza, line 45 and 46, he asks, "Do I dare disturb the universe?" I think that this line goes along with the rest but I think it causes readers to read into more of the meaning of his "disturbance". What does Prufrock want to disturb the universe with? What are his true feelings about out world? And by the writer asking himself these things, it causes readers to as well, leaving them thinking about the poem even when they are done reading it.

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Carley
04/11/2013 12:02pm

Although Prufrock does not have as direct of a message as most conventional poetry, it is more open to interpretation and gives the reader more to think about. For instance, (lines 13-14 and 35-36) “In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo.” Obviously we know who Michelangelo is, but what relevance does the Renaissance artist have on this poem? These lines are completely open to interpretation to the reader. While all the allusions in this poem are used to perhaps show off the speaker’s knowledge of literature, allusions are typically used to help the reader fully understand what the poet is trying to get across. However, the allusions Eliot uses don’t help much. He makes many references to Inferno by Dante and many other poems. To “have squeezed the universe into a ball/To roll it toward some overwhelming question.” (lines 92-93) does not seem like such a pleasant image. However, to squeeze the universe into a ball is a reference to “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell, and based from what we know on that poem, the reader could also assume this ball could be a romantic/good thing. Even the last stanza brings no answers for the reader. How did the speaker get into “chambers of the sea”? (line 129) What significance is this to the rest of the poem? While it all seems to be senseless, the confusing allusions and random fragments of thought causes the readers to do exactly what Eliot wants them to do: think.

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Megan Wall
04/13/2013 4:34pm

Your response makes so much sense & helps me better understand why I prefer unconventional poems more-because you can interpret them how you see fit rather than only having one "right" interpretation.

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Lacayah
04/11/2013 11:15pm

3. I believe that many of the themes evident in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrok" are still meaningful today. T.S. Eliot addresses the theme of insecurity when he said, for example, that people would talk about his physical faults behind his back. He later addressed the theme of time when he said "There will be time, there will be time" and then goes on to talk about all the things there will be time for. Finally he refers to the neverending question of "what if." He talks about changing things in his life, but then says things like "Do I dare?" and "Would it be worth it?" and second guesses himself. These themes are all found today. Everyone has insecurities and things that they're "sure" people see and talk about behind closed doors. Everyone thinks about time: how much they have left? what they'll do with it? if theirs enough time to do what they intend to? and so on. And everyone sits and wonders what would happen if they did something differently and what difference it would make. Each theme is represented in modern life.

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Mika
04/13/2013 1:43pm

I agree. The poem tells us of its themes present in us so we can use it to look at ourselves and change, which is very meaningful

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Jacob Jones
04/22/2013 12:43am

I agree that many of the themes are still meaningful today, and that he addresses the theme of insecurity.

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Mika
04/13/2013 1:39pm

1. Prufrock is less direct than coventional poetry, but leaves the reader with more to think about. By being less direct, the reader must dig in to find the meaning. For example, the confusing line (105-106), "But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen/Would it have been worth while," takes time to figure out what Prufrock is talking about. And what "would have been worth while?" The reader has to go back, study certain lines again while figureing out their meaning to discover what Prufrock is doing. Since the reader is uncertain of what is going on in the poem, the reader may go to sparknotes or shmoop, and therefor gets another opinion. The reader thinks about this other opinion and his/her own, and therfor leaves the reader more to think about. In the poem were more direct, the reader wouldn't have to think more about what it could mean. (line 129-131) "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us, and we drown." Why does Prufrock say the reader is drowning? He doesn't say why he thinks we may be drowning, and so we form our own opinions. he may think this because he is crazy, or he thinks we won't be able to tell anyone his story, or ect. If the poem were mroe direct and told us why, we would not have to think about it as much.

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Emily
04/15/2013 8:31am

I agree that the reader would have to reread parts of the poem to get the meaning.

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Megan Wall
04/13/2013 3:11pm

1. To begin, this prompt is completely subjective, so I’m writing from my own perspective, but I realize that the opposite of my opinion is just as valid (probably). For me, poems such as “Prufrock” that were written in the midst of great change and don’t offer a hopeful message cause me to think more than conventional, or pre-modernist, poems do. I suppose that I ponder the hopeless poems more than hopeful poems because all of our lives we grow up watching things like Disney movies with a terrible situation that somehow ends with a “happily ever after” scenario. However, there comes a point in life when the pixie dust wares off and we, like “Prufrock” are left to our anxieties, insecurities, and questions. I mean, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves, “[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"] Okay, so maybe you aren’t concerned about balding, but I bet that most of us are worried about people saying rude things about us behind our backs. After all of his easily sympathized insecurities are listed, the poem simply ends, “Till human voices wake us, and we drown.” Not exactly the “happily ever after” ending I mentioned before. But, it is after I finished this poem that I began to contemplate things. When I am old what if I am in the same place that “Prufrock” notes, purposeless and hopeless? Is there any hope, or will life always bring turmoil and an inward war that can’t be pacified? So, sure, I try to decipher symbols in conventional poetry, but I do not tend to think as deeply about them as I do when I read more modern poetry.

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Carley
04/15/2013 9:01am

Good thoughts Megan! I like how you compare this poem to Disney movies. :) I also like how you apply the speaker's thoughts to your own life to question what you will be like when you're older.

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Emily
04/15/2013 8:30am

1. Prufrock and poems like it are indirect, but it's because they are indirect that the reader has more to think about. Readers can interpret it in different ways because the poem doesn't just go straight out and tell them what the think about it. For example, the line "In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo. " repeats (lines 13-14 and lines 35-36). The poem never really says why the woman in there, so the reader has to figure it out. Another confusing line is "To say: 'I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all' ". The man's name isn't Lazarus, so why should he say that? These and other lines cause the reader to think more deeply about the poem.

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Lacayah
04/15/2013 9:46am

I agree that the poem is indirect so thought is provoked.

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Jacob Jones
04/22/2013 12:44am

I agree that Prufrocks is less direct and gives the reader more to think about then more conventional poetry. One reason that the poem gives the reader more to think about is that it is not direct with the main message. The reader has to think about and search for the message in poems that are not direct, leaving the reader with more to think about. Poems that are more conventional are also more direct and leave the reader with a clearer message that they do not have to search for as hard. In Lines (52-54), “I know the voices dying with a dying fall / Beneath the music from a father room. / So how should I presume?” These sentences make the reader think if the phrases literally or fictively. The phrase appears to be direct and to the point but the remainder of the poem makes the reader think what the point really is; therefore, the reader may be confused how to understand this statement.

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Tristan Rude
04/22/2013 9:29pm

In response to statement one, I agree that "Prufrock" is less direct than conventional poems. For instance, when the narrator mentions the room where "the women come and go / talking of Michelangelo," we wonder,"What is this room?" We don't even know where it is, this (like is mentioned in the statement) leaves the reader with more to think about. Also, the poem is very indirect about to whom the narrator is speaking and if this unknown person is the one implied in the poem. "Let us go then, you and I." We don't ever find out exactly who this is. Which, of course, leaves the reader with more to think about.

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Sam Farmer
04/30/2013 1:37pm

Many of the modernist ideas underlying "Prufrock" are still meaningful today. One of the main ideas Elliot was trying to get across was self doubt. The bachelor in the poem has relationship issues with women and in Line 49 he says, “ For I have known them all already, known them all.” He seems to give up on women and lack the confidence it takes to find “Mrs. Right.” He is insecure and in lines 37-38 he questions himself saying, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Insecurity and self doubt are still emotional problems people today face. Everyone is soul searching trying to find their mate. People still question going out of their comfort zones asking themselves, “Do I dare.”

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