Please explain the themes of the inability to make decisions and the idea of indecisiveness relating to time in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Guest" by Albert Camus.

1 Answer | Add Yours

Top Answer

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Both of these texts feature protagonists who desperately try to put off the inevitable. In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," this takes the form of a man who is heading towards a meeting with a woman that is clearly going to be significant, yet the text indicates that he is very unsure of what he wants to emerge from this meeting. Note the following quote:

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet...

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

The reader is presented with a very clear image of a man who resists being tied down to one particular course of action, and needs to have the opportunity for a "hundred visions and revisions" whilst living his life. He is a man who is chronically indecisive and can't make up his mind what he wants, and in the end is not able to live a life of any meaning at all.

In "The Guest," the reader is confronted with Daru, who is a figure who does everything he can to not have to take sides with either the French or the rebels that oppose French colonial rule. In this text, it is not so much the inability to make decisions that plagues Daru, as is the case with J. Alfred Prufrock, but the determination to not make decisions. This is why he does everything he can to avoid taking a stand either for the French or for the rebels when he is charged with delivering a rebel prisoner to the authorities. He does what he can to try and encourage the prisoner to run away, then finally ends up releasing him to walk the rest of the way to the prison himself, transferring responsibility to him. However, just as J. Alfred Prufrock is shown to not really have a meaningful life because of his indecision and his endless procrastination, so too Daru realises that,  no matter how hard he tries to avoid taking a stand, circumstances determine that you are forced into supporting one side or the other, as the ending of the story makes clear. Somebody scrawls on his board the message "You handed over our brother. You will pay for this." Even though Daru strictly didn't do this, his actions have been interpreted in this way, and he has taken a side, whether he wanted to or not. This story suggests that true impartiality is impossible, and that deliberate indecision is not a good course to follow as others will make that decision for you.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,994 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question