Prufrock and Peter Walsh are alike in that they are both middle-aged men who are dogged by a sense of having failed to achieve the dream that propelled them when they were young. Walsh's dream was Clarissa Dalloway, and while back in London to marry a much younger woman, he...
Prufrock and Peter Walsh are alike in that they are both middle-aged men who are dogged by a sense of having failed to achieve the dream that propelled them when they were young. Walsh's dream was Clarissa Dalloway, and while back in London to marry a much younger woman, he is filled with regret for having lost Clarissa to Richard. At Clarissa's party he tells Sally Seton that "his relations with Clarissa had not been simple. It had spoilt his life."
Prufrock is haunted by an "overwhelming question" that he never asks and by a sense that, rather than having forward momentum, he has "measured out" his life "with coffee spoons," an endless, repetitive round of parties that has sapped him of his potential.
Both men are unhappy and feel like failures, but they tend to blame it on others rather than taking responsibility for their own happiness. Peter blames his life's failure on not obtaining Clarissa, but it seems clear that even had they married, he would have suffered from a discontent all his own. Prufrock complains inwardly of the parties he suffers and feels sorry for himself that the mermaids he dreams of are not beckoning to him, but the life he has not made for himself is a result of his own decisions—or indecisions.
While "Prufrock" was written before World War I and Mrs. Dalloway after World War I, they both represent the sense of disillusion, isolation, and regret that was a hallmark of the early twentieth century or modernist period. In "Prufrock," this is personified by Prufrock himself, a timid, failed man who lacks the decisive, heroic qualities imagined in men in earlier periods. He cannot ask his questions, so he remains isolated. He is too timid to move forward and take hold of life, so he remains trapped in regret. Peter has many of these same characteristics, but Mrs. Dalloway as a whole is also saturated with the pain, disillusion, and regret that gripped English society after the bloodbath of World War I. This is conveyed most acutely through Septimus, who lives in an isolation and pain so profound that he kills himself.
Another character similar to Prufrock is Richard Dalloway, who is too timid to buy his wife a gift of jewelry and instead opts for flowers, a less emotionally risky gesture. Mr. Dalloway, like Prufrock, is guided by others.