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T.S. Eliot's The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock

2806 words - 11 pages

T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock
Works Cited Not Included

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a poem by T.S. Eliot, provides an abundant source of material for applying Freudian analysis.[1] Specifically, it is the character Prufrock who supplies this rich source. Although many Freudian themes could have been addressed in relation to Prufrock, in this paper it will be narrowed to the prevalent themes of ambivalence and cultural frustration found in Freudπs work and the contributing role the super-ego plays in their occurrence. In fact, Prufrock exemplifies ambivalence and its necessary conditions so well that Freud himself would have probably labeled him a neurotic.

Before applying Freudian analysis to Prufrock, it is important to address one issue that will have an immediate effect on the interpretation of the poem. It stems from the following translated passage found in Danteπs Inferno that appears right before the body of the poem. The passage is spoken by a person within the eighth chasm of hell.[2]

If I believed that my answer would be

To someone who would ever return to earth,

This flame would move no more,

But because no one from this gulf

Has ever returned alive, if what I hear is true,

I can reply with no fear of infamy. (Eliot, 3)

Although this passage may suggest that Prufrock is speaking to someone who he can trust, his character would suggest otherwise. Prufrock is far too consciously anxious when it comes to what people think of him. This can be displayed by his enduring indecisiveness found in the many questions he asks throughout the poem, such as, ≥Do I dare / Disturb the universe?≤ (45-46) and ≥So how should I presume?≤ (54).[3] His social anxiety is also revealed by how he thinks others will react to him, the following line being a perfect example. ≥(They will say: åBut how his arms and legs are thin!π)≤ (44). Yet, the best example of his extreme social anxiety is when he describes how he feels when in social settings.

And I have known the eyes already, known them all –

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall. (55-58)

The allusion made is a reference to bug collecting where the insect is pinned down and further inspected. Prufrock feels he is scrutinized in such a way that he cannot escape, hence his being pinned to the wall. He stills wriggles because he is uncomfortable, but it is to no avail. Due to this severe social anxiety, allowing even one person to know of the extreme vulnerability he exposes through the thoughts in the poem would be too stressful for him. The only person who Prufrock could be certain would never betray these thoughts is himself. Thus, the text of the poem represents his own stream of...

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