Describe the "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S Eliot as a modern poem?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In many ways, the Modernist movement for poetry was a response to the harshness of the time period which lasted from around the 1880s to the 1940s.  Considering the sorts of events that were occurring at this time, industrialization followed by World War I which resulted in widespread unhappiness and suffering, many poets, including T.S. Eliot, decide to stop following the traditional rules and motifs of the old, established poets; it was like they had collectively had enough of the status quo and wanted to try something new.  Modernism embraced the breaking of rules and conventions; many modern poems also focus on attributes of the new modern world, positive or negative.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a modern poem for several reasons.  T.S. Eliot first published it in 1915, and many critics hated it instantly.  The experimental quality of the poem, the organization of the verses and Prufrock's random rambling, did not appeal to many of the more traditionally minded readers.  Another modernist aspect of the poem is its portrayal of city life; Prufrock, the well-dressed gentleman, meanders through the city with his predilection for restaurants with sawdust floors, thinking of what he wished he might have said to the woman he never ends up meeting.  Through Prufrock and his unconventional point of view, the poem addresses several key modernist themes, such as fear, alienation, and city life. 



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