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"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was written during the modernist literary...

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jsteed | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2008 at 6:51 AM via web

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"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was written during the modernist literary movement. What lines show influence of a modernist society?

Or in other words, is there evidence in the poem that shows this poem was clearly a modernist work?

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 28, 2008 at 7:55 AM (Answer #1)

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Modernism is a literary movement that is marked by a sense of isolation and unhappiness with the movement from the agricultural society to an industrial one.  One element that emerged from this period was stream-of-conscious, which is writing characterized by the procession of thoughts.  

One aspect of "Prufrock" that makes it modernism is the setting.  The poem is set in a city, not a rural area, and Prufrock is walking in the city during the poem, lamenting about his sad life and his inability to woo a lady-friend.  

Here are a few passages that reflect modernism:

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Another passage (involving the drab and dreary setting and tone of the poem):

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,

Sources:

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 4, 2008 at 11:58 AM (Answer #2)

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T.S.Eliot's "The Love Song of Alfred J.Prufrock" (1915) is certainly a 'Modernist' poem. Some of the important features of modernist writing are as follows:

1.  The poem is a  detailed  record of the random thoughts -subjective consciouness-represented just as they are going on in the mind of  Prufrock.

2. Modernist writers were influenced by Freud's psychoanalytical method   by which a person was able to speak freely to release all  his repressed emotions just like Prufrock in the poem: "To spit out all the butt ends of my days and /ways?"

3. The poets used avant garde methods like the 'Stream of Consciousness' technique to faithfully portray the complex ways in which the mind works-psychologically by association rather than logically.

4. This resulted in their characters having multiple personalities like Prufrock who is both the speaker and the listener in the poem.

5. The modernist writers were influenced by contemporary artistic movements like 'Collage.' The poem is a mosaic of quotations from Dante, Shakespeare and the Holy Bible.

6.  Eliot, like other modernist writers, deals with chronological (past,present and future),  historical and most importantly subjective time.

7. Pessimism and  loneliness: The entire poem is a desperate attempt by Prufock to relate to another human being.

8.  The poem is dedicated to his friend who died in the 1st World War.

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