Ignorance Is Bliss: An Explication Of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock”

1201 words - 5 pages

J. Alfred Prufrock was a balding, middle-aged man who was insecure of his ability to converse with women. However, he implicitly danced with dishonesty and lived in an attitude of ignorance caused ironically through his lack of confidence in himself. Likewise, T.S. Eliot seems to have a monologue with himself as well as Prufrock that includes similar feelings of Prufrock’s character. For example, in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Eliot reveals his personal insecurities in regard to writing modern public poetry in lines such as, “There will be time, there will be time/ to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;” (27-28) and, “Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?” (45-46). These lines enhance the reader’s understanding that Eliot ponders whether he should allow his poetry to go public; telling himself that he has time and more time to enter his writing into the universe of new literature to be judged by critics as Prufrock felt he would have been criticized by women who admired men in great positions. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was most apparently written about Prufrock’s insecurity of women, but lines which contain dual meanings can be applied to both the main character and the author to indicate that Eliot is actually referring to his own anxieties of being an unsuccessful, modernistic poet whose voice could go unheard.
The opening lines of prose introduce Eliot’s tone to the reader through line three inclusive to illustrate, as stated in line forty-nine, his all-knowing attitude through saying, “For I have known them all already, known them all—”. In contrast he presents his uncertainty in himself by ending the same stanza he begins with: “For I have known them all already, known them all—” (49) by presenting the question, “So how should I presume?” Thus, he reveals his hope that he is not all-knowing. He carries his burden as a result of already knowing what another might already say that will criticize him, and that is why he presents a view that is tainted with his own hazy, dishonesty. He carries the burden with the symbolism of his entire body: his balding head, and thin limbs etc.; (Blasing). Yet, Prufrock indicates he is content in his ignorance of what he believes others’ words are to be because he feels he has time for, as Eliot writes, “a hundred indecisions,/ And for a hundred visions and revisions” (32-33) Thus, he feels he has time for speaking to the women he admires later when he has revised what he might say to them to make his words more serious, and the lady’s response more predictable. When in all reality he admits he grows old and will soon run out of the time by which he may remain dishonest to himself as to when he might speak and commence to take toast and tea (T.S.Eliot).
In likeness to Prufrock, Eliot lies to himself to create an altered vision of his abilities as a modernistic poet, and the author’s voice shines through the poem via a dual meaning in the prose. For example, while Prufrock...

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