Examine the "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" or "The Waste Land" as a failure of impersonality. Write a response that examines his work as a failure of impersonality. That is, analyze one of...

Examine the "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" or "The Waste Land" as a failure of impersonality. Write a response that examines his work as a failure of impersonality. That is, analyze one of these poems as a poem that is in fact deeply personal, even if it tries not to be. What parts of the poem will you choose to examine and why? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The personality of the narrator of the "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" violates the idea that the poem is impersonal in nature. When he invites the reader to go with him "through certain half-deserted streets," the reader develops an idea of Prufrock's haunts and his personality. He favors "cheap hotels" and "sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells." These parts of the poem, as well as others, portray Prufrock's innermost desires and fears.

The reader also knows something about Prufrock's appearance. He describes himself "With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —." He also describes himself as nicely dressed, with "My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,/ My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —/ (They will say: 'But how his arms and legs are thin!')." Prufrock is an elegantly dressed man who wears formal clothing but has thin arms and legs. The reader can picture him, and the reader also senses that Prufrock is embarrassed by his arms and legs and what others say about them.

Finally, Prufrock also reveals his anxieties and dreams. He says that, "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be." In other words, he tells the reader that he is not meant to direct the action in life but is instead "deferential" and "cautious." He is not a leader but someone who is politic. At the end of the poem, he reveals, "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each./ I do not think that they will sing to me." In other words, he does not think he is privy to the secrets and pleasures of life. Far from projecting impersonality, Prufrock provides the reader in these sections of the poem with a sense of his haunts, his physical self, and his innermost dilemmas and dreams.

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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