In this blog we will talk about one of T.S Eliot’s poems for HSC’s Advanced English Module B: The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock. We’ll talk about context and key values as well as analyse some examples to help you for your essay. Specifically, we’ll talk about the way Eliot explores the idea of an individual’s ambivalence and isolation in society, enhancing the notion of the futility of life within an increasingly modernist context.
Eliot wrote this poem after the First World War had begun, changing the nature of society into one that experienced chaos and uncertainty amongst each other. This highlights the purpose of Prufrock, where Eliot warns the reader of the detrimental notion of a futile society where individuals are unable to connect and find a deeper meaning in life. It is important to integrate the influence of context upon the composer’s text, as this is what will drive the argument into how and why the author chooses to portray certain ideas and values.
Examples and Analysis - Theme: Futility of Life
Love Song explores how Prufrock’s inability to find meaning is caused by his self-consciousness and concern for superficial matters, creating an involuntary cloud of self-doubt and thus restricting him from progressing in life. The shift towards a modernist society has further influenced Eliot to play with different forms and features such as inconsistent rhyming and stream-of- consciousness in order to reflect the persona’s sense of ambivalence and the shift towards a modernist society.
We can then delve into specific examples such as the ones below:
Time is prevalent in the repetition, “there will be time, there will be time”, suggesting a sense of deferral and self-encouragement that there is infinite time to face his insecurities and articulate the deeper questions in life. Prufrock also expresses his fears of conforming and exposing his true identity to society. This is substantiated through the use of crab symbolism, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas”, using crab symbolism to associate the outer surface and side movements of a crab with Prufrock’s insecurity and desire to possess an exterior persona that doesn’t move forward and shields away from society to protect his vulnerabilities.
The most appropriate poems to write about with Prufrock would be Rhapsody on a Windy
Night or Preludes, where all poems similarly talk about the aftermath of WWI and the sense
of meaninglessness it has forced upon individuals within their society.
*Please note that while this information is a great starting point for these texts, relying solely on the information in this post will not be enough to get a result in the top bands.