Tying The Loose Ends of Noë’s Theory To Prufrock And Binding Them With His Tears
As “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” progresses, Prufrock’s monologue becomes more scattered to imitate his flowing thoughts and disconnection with his environment, which includes the people and material things. Reading further into the poem though, readers observe a shift in Prufrock’s monologue that results in an even more profound and disturbing revelation.
4 Disturbing Revelations Found in Prufrock’s Love Song
#4: Society Puts On Façades & Use Each OtherPrufrock first points out society’s façade, saying,“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;” (Eliot ll.26-27).
The people around him put on different “faces” – which is basically being two-faced – to appeal to different people they encounter.
Erich Fromm’s “Works In An Alienated Society” (first mentioned in “What Prufrock’s ‘Love’ Song Is About“) identifies this “separation of the self” as another form of alienation that can ultimately lead to forgetting who you truly are.
Prufrock then shifts the conversation to lists of food, such as: toast, tea, cakes, ices, peaches, and marmalade. All of these foods can be served as cliché foods at socializing events. With people putting on mental and material façades, these socializing events create images of truly fake relations. According to Fromm, he states people make use of these fake relationships for later personal gain. He says,“There is not much love or hate to be found in human relations of our day. There is, rather, a superficial friendliness, and a more than superficial fairness, but behind that surface is distance and indifference” (Fromm 76).
These fake relationships are built on distrust, and man’s relationships are “between two abstractions, two living machines, who use each other” (Fromm 76-77). The selfish trait of society truly can then cause an individual who does not conform to these standards to be imprisoned to isolation and alienation by humanity, or even impose alienation upon themselves to escape such a lifestyle. Noë’s theory can then be extended to reflect that once we are alienated from our environment, our consciousness engages in a drive to drastically disconnect from everything altogether.
#3: Society Is Materialistic & Objectifies HimPrufrock describes society as “arms that are braceleted and bare” and “perfume from a dress,” creating images of women clad in elegance (Eliot ll.63 and 65). The heightened aesthetic elegance links back to façades in addition to depicting his perceptions of how society has not only become materialistic, but also shallow and superficial. Clearly, Prufrock is not in sync with society’s morals and values which isolate him from the societal environment.
He voices his personal feelings about his rejection through an image of “a pair of ragged claws” at the bottom of the sea (Eliot l.73). His sole use of “claws” depicts an image of a dead crab whose claws have separated from its body and now float alone, alienated from both body and society, at the bottom of the sea. Another use of animal imagery even strips Prufrock of his human traits to further alienate him by making him feel like a specimen “pinned and wriggling on the wall” for all of society to study, judge, and label him (Eliot l.58). Upon examining Prufrock’s views, however, you realize there is an awkward hypocrisy occurring; he is the one who is openly labeling society and making himself the victim. This is where his mental disintegration can be observed from environmental disconnection, and how his mind now works to deny the things he once wished for.
#2: Prufrock Reveals Just How Insecure He IsPrufrock repeats the questions of “Do I dare?” or “would it have been worth it all…” throughout the poem. His repetitive and random queries evoke insecurity and unhealthy, indecisive mind processing.“Do I dare / Disturb the universe” (Eliot ll.45-46)
and“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” (Eliot l.122)
are examples that strongly demonstrate his insecurities concerning how people perceive him. He repeatedly asks the question of how he should “presume” or “begin” when confronted with women or general social situations, which suggests that he never knew how to approach these people in the first place. This absence of communication contributes to his separation from society while society separates itself from him in return.
He then presses further, asking:“Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.” (Eliot ll.106-110)
His questioning of whether if it would have been worth all the materialistic things, fake relations, people being the same, and unsatisfied with anything – are all his excuses he has developed for his failure in being part of society. Prufrock desires all these things, but because he was unable to get any of them he finds justification by painting the society negatively. This is also another sign of insecurity and an example of his mental breakdown; he would rather blame others for his outcome instead of acknowledging his own faults.
#1: Prufrock’s Allusions Deserve An Academy AwardTo further emphasize Prufrock’s helplessness and sadness, he mentions Lazarus, “come from the dead,” (Eliot l.94). Lazarus is a figure from the bible resurrected as a result of a miracle performed by Jesus. His mentioning of Lazarus indicates Prufrock’s own personal efforts toward being part of society, but it can also suggest he himself is seeking a miracle. Prufrock therefore compares himself to Lazarus to dramatically illustrate that he has tried so hard, but in the end women and society will still reject or be unappreciative of his efforts – similar to the lyrics in that overplayed Linkin Park song, “In the End.” Another allusion refers to William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” when Prufrock knows “…the voices dying with a dying fall / Beneath the music from a farther room” (Eliot ll.52-53). In the beginning of “Twelfth Night,” the main character describes his dramas about finding love to his audience of musicians – just as Prufrock is doing for us as his audience. Prufrock therefore dramatically emphasizes his sufferings, loneliness, and insecurities by specifically alluding to Shakespearean tragedies with biblical proportions. He is also subliminally, and rather pathetically, pleading for attention within his denials.
In addition, the epigraph located at the beginning is an allusion to Dante’s “Inferno,” a literary work that discusses the nine levels of hell.
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” links to “Inferno” because both concern personal confessions from souls who are enduring eternal suffering. When Prufrock discusses his life, his consciousness depicts his life like a living hell and he has come to bring knowledge back from his hell to the readers. His mentality thus strikes him now as a poor, pathetic soul to take pity on, rather than acknowledge the broken mess he has made himself in response to society.