Prufrock




Prufrock
By: Bob

In his poem Eliot paints the picture of an insecure man looking for his niche in society. Prufrock has fallen in with the times, and places a lot of weight on social status and class to determine his identity. He is ashamed of his personal appearance and looks towards social advancement as a way to assure himself and those around him of his worth and establish who he is. Throughout the poem the reader comes to realize that Prufrock has actually all but given up on himself and now sees his balding head and realizes that he has wasted his life striving for an unattainable goal. The beginning of the poem is pre-empted by an excerpt from Dante\'s Inferno which Eliot uses to begin his exploration of Prufrock\'s self-consciousness. By inserting this quote, a parallel is created between Prufrock and the speaker, Guido da Montefeltro, who is very aware of his position in "hell" and his inability to escape his fate. Prufrock is also very aware of his current status but doesn\'t realize until the end that he is unable to rise above it. The issue of his fate leads Prufrock to an "overwhelming question..."(10) which is never identified, asked, or answered in the poem. This "question" is somehow associated with his social status, but both its ambiguity and Prufrock\'s denial to even ask "What is it?"(11) gives some insight into his state of internal turmoil. Prufrock\'s dissatisfaction with his personal appearance is evidence of an underlying lack of self-confidence. Not only is he unhappy with the way he looks, having "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;" but he is constantly afraid of what others will have to say about him: "(They will say: \'How his hair is growing thin!\')"(41) and "(... \'But how his arms and legs are thin!\')"(44). Prufrock\'s preoccupation with looks shows how much he is caught up in the social scene and how much his identity is rooted in what others think of him. Unfortunately, his lack of confidence isn\'t limited to his looks. He\'s indecisive and unsuccessful in his attempts to communicate with other people, repeating "visions and revisions"(33) and "decisions and revisions..."(48). Eliot uses repetition here to emphasize Prufrock\'s alterations in behavior to please those around him. He wants to speak out and share his thoughts but doesn\'t have the courage saying, "\'Do I dare?\' and, \'Do I dare?\'"(38). Possibly, he\'s asking if he should dare "and drop a question on your plate."(30) He wants to ask a lady out but again he can\'t get up the nerve to take that step. He is a bit melodramatic but he realizes the enormity of the odds stacked against him and he drones, "Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?"(45-46). In this case Eliot uses hyperbole to show the reader extent of Prufrock\'s insecurities. They are his whole "universe." Once again, Eliot uses the device of ambiguity to reflect the internal struggle in Prufrock and lead the reader to ask himself or herself, "What is the \'overwhelming question\' that Prufrock is asking?" Unfortunately even Prufrock himself doesn\'t exactly have the answer. His declaration that he isn\'t a prophet indicates Prufrock\'s view on his position in society, which he is as confused about as everything else. He isn\'t poor but he doesn\'t really fit into the upper class either. Eliot introduces the idea of Prufrock being caught between the two classes in the very beginning of the poem, when he juxtaposes the images of "restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/ And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells"(4-5) with the women who "come and go Talking of Michelangelo."(13-14). These two images represent two completely different ways of life. The first image is of a dingy lifestyle - living among the "half-deserted streets"(4) while the second is the lifestyle that Prufrock longs to be associated with. It is much like the image of Michelangelo\'s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel where Adam is reaching out to touch God\'s finger but can\'t quite reach. While Prufrock doesn\'t belong to either of these two classes completely, he does have characteristics of both. He claims to be "Full of high sentence; but a bit obtuse" while "At times, indeed,