In the Context of Your Critical Study, How Does What You Have Listened to Either Support or Challenge Your Interpretation of the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Eliot’s Poetry as a Whole?
English Assessment Task 1 – Listening Task Response: In the context of your critical study, how does what you have listened to either support or challenge your interpretation of The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock and Eliot’s poetry as a whole? There are several aspects of the university lecture on T. S Eliot’s poetry that support my personal interpretation of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Rhapsody on a Windy Night and Eliot’s poetry in general.
My interpretation of Prufrock, Rhapsody and Eliot’s poetry is that this medium of expression is a way for Eliot to communicate his own personal feelings regarding his personal life and social context. This explains why his poetry often holds common themes of depression, alienation, ambiguity, criticism of society, hesitancy, submission and vulnerability.
As to his context, Eliot’s social context was heavily intertwined with the ongoing industrial revolution and the progression of the modernist period.
There are heavy themes of disillusionment in society within Eliot’s poetry, which suggest that these social movements have greatly affected Eliot’s perspective of social status. The suffragette movement had also begun the women’s rights movement during this time, which also seems to have affected Eliot’s perspective of the value and place women and love, especially in terms of his own personal experience. The university lecture discussed the relationship between Eliot and his character Prufrock, as well as the nature of Prufrock’s character in his ambiguity and paradoxical sense of identity and place in society.
The lecture also looked at Eliot’s life and ideas, including his idea of age, the observations of the character Prufrock and the procrastination of life that Eliot expresses through his work.
Eliot’s opinions and responses to his social context of the ongoing industrial revolution and the progression of the modernist period are greatly reflected in Prufrock. He uses the repetition and visual imagery of the yellow fog and smoke on the window panes as well as the visual imagery of the ‘smoke that rises from the pipes’ and ‘lonely men in shirt-sleeves leaning out of windows, to convey his disillusionment.
The same disillusionment is expressed in his other works. In Rhapsody on a Windy Night, tactile imagery is used in the line ‘A broken spring in a factory yard, Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left Hard and curled and ready to snap. ‘ The rust of the spring symbolized the decay of society, whilst the repetition of yellow and the imagery of fog and smoke symbolizes the corruption and poison that is a part of this decay.
The lecture refers to the poem as a critique of Romantic egotism, which is congruent with Eliot’s context, and the context of his poetry.
Because of the disillusionment that Eliot expresses in society, it is reasonable to conclude that by expressing this disillusionment so outwardly, Eliot is critiquing the romantic idealism of the beautiful natural world, or at least he is commenting of the reality of the effects of society on this now out of date ideology. Throughout Eliot’s poetry there are commonly the underlying emotions of alienation, and resigned submission to the constant questioning of identity. A major part of this is Eliot’s portrayal of women, especially in Prufrock and even in his other works like Rhapsody.
Eliot seems to have been majorly affected by the social context of the time.
Which for a part included the growing suffragette and women’s rights movements. These new social ideals and the new place of women in society seems to disturb Eliot which is shown through the character Prufrock as well as his other poetry. As a result of the new empowerment of women he feels submissive to and reserved from women and sees them as a symbol of society. This is shown by the dialogue in Rhapsody, “Regard that woman who hesitates toward you in the light of the door Which opens on her like a grin. The fact that he is outside and she inside only reaffirms his separation from society. He also sees women as very materialist, which is highlighted by the repetition of the line ‘In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.
‘ Because of this reservation and disempowerment Prufrock’s ambiguous nature is exposed even further. The title of the poem, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ seems to create a parody or a mockery of a love song. The lecturer in the lecture suggests that Prufrock ‘is bourgeois; he is intellectualizing; he’s incapable of grasping and expressing what we expect from a love song, that is, strong emotion. This is because of his perspective of the role of women in his changing social context and his constant questioning of his identity in relation to this new context. Probably the most crucial theme in Eliot’s poetry is that of identity.
Throughout Prufrock and even through the rest of Eliot’s poetry, the identity of the character is constantly questioned. The lecturer looked closely at the relationship between Eliot and Prufrock, even in the name itself. ‘J. Alfred Prufrock is almost a kind of parody of T. S Eliot.
The name suggests a kind of upper class English or Anglophile person.
Those formal initials are pretentious in a way… Prufrock is a kind of pre-text or a device through which Eliot can speak of himself. Prufrock becomes a way of writing about the self when to Eliot it no longer seems plausible to write as one’s self. ‘ Eliot’s poetry constantly questions, ‘So how should I presume,’ ‘Do I dare disturb the universe,’ and Would it have been worth while,’ It is through these rhetorical questions that he procrastinates about living his life and is burdened by the question of how to begin. Eliot, through Prufrock defers the beginning by his procrastination because he sees the beginning as something to fear.
He has so little conviction in himself that in Rhapsody, he has to convince himself to even retire to his own home, ‘Memory! You have the key, The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair, Mount.
‘ This accumulation of mundane actions is what he lives. He is self-conscious about his age and his appearance, ‘With a bald spot in the middle of my hair,’ he says, we are given the visual imagery of his age. His alienation and hesitancy is paradoxical to his criticism of the society around him, the lecturer states, however that ‘his sense of age expresses for him a feeling of belatedness, an anxiety that he’s already run out of time. The university lecture supports my interpretation of The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Eliot’s poetry as a whole in that it addresses Eliot’s personal context and feelings about his personal context and how this is greatly reflected in his poetry, especially Prufrock and Rhapsody. The lecture addresses the theme of Eliot’s relationship to Prufrock, his sense of identity, his ambiguity, his issues with age and procrastination and his criticism of and disillusionment in his social context that during the time period was heavily influence by the industrial revolution and the changing women’s rights and place in society.