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Distress In The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock

1313 words - 5 pages

The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock - The Distress of J.Alfred Prufrock

The human psyche is divided into three distinct aspects: the Persona, the Shadow, and the Anima/Animus; at least, it is according to Jungian Psychology. Drawing heavily on the theories developed by Freud, Jung's psychological concepts tell us that if these three facets are not properly integrated - that is, if one of the three is overly dominant, or repressed, or all three are in conflict with each other - then an individual's energies - his libido - will be out of alignment, causing psychological distress and unconscious problems.

The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, if read Archetypaly, reveals to us such an individual. J.Alfred Prufrock, the nebbish little man that he is, has some very serious problems - he is extremely indecisive, obsessed with trivial details, and frets over inconsequentials ('Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?'); more importantly, he seems to have an inability to confront the opposite sex, choosing instead to develop elaborate fantasies in which to meet imaginary women - all of whom seem to be either cruel, vain, or sinister in some subtle way.

An archetypal analysis drawing upon Jung's theories seeks to uncover the reasons behind Prufrock's neurosis. The first line of the poem - 'Let us go then, you and I' - gives an immediate insight into Prufrock's problem: his psyche is out of joint. The 'You' and 'I' of the poem are two aspects of his personality: his Shadow and his Persona, respectively.

Prufrock is very much aware of the schism within his own mind. His Persona - the aspect of himself he presents to the social world - remains dominant most of the time. His Shadow, however, composed of the darker and more liberal urges within, cannot be entirely repressed. He reveals this when he quotes:

"There will be time, there will be time,

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

...

Time for you and time for me,"

At times his Persona is in charge ('...prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet'); at other times, his Shadow surges forth ('There will be time to murder and create'). As he recognises, both vie for dominance, and each takes its turn holding the reins ('Time for you and time for me').

Unfortunately for Prufrock, this is an entirely unhealthy state of being. Neither aspect should be dominant at any given time - Prufrock should be in charge, having integrated both parts of himself into a healthy, cohesive whole. Without this synthesis, this acceptance of his darker urges and mundane appearance, his psychological energies are left unfocused - possibly leading to his extreme indecisiveness.

The unhealthy rigidity of his Persona is painfully apparent throughout the entire poem - it paralyses him completely in social situations,...

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