"The Lovesong of J Arthur Proofrock" by T.S. Eliot

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Jenna Hecker


J. Arthur Prufrock as a tragic character

The lovesong of J. Arthur Prufrock is a candid look into the tortured psyche of a man struggling with his self-image. J. Arthur Prufrock is afraid to admit to himself that he has failed. He has failed in love, in life, and in his ability to establish his own identity.

Prufrock invites us to join him in his self-examination and paints for the reader a dull yellowing world which he inhabits. "Let us go then you and I/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table." (Eliot, 1420) Eliot's carefully chosen words establish a picture of this dream world that is Prufrock's psyche. The word etherised, a reference to the ether used as anesthesia in operations alerts us that Prufrock finds himself numb, and also that he is aware his perception is altered.

It shows us from the beginning that we are not hearing from a man who is completely in control of himself. By calling himself an etherised patient he is denoting that he is a person waiting to be operated on, he is waiting for treatment.

Prufrock is telling the tale of his isolation. He speaks of "restless nights in one-night cheap hotels." He specifies that he never spends more than one night, implying that he does not keep his lovers, possibly even letting us know that they are working women, as women of Prufrock's social class would probably not typically find themselves sleeping in cheap hotels. He establishes his social status early in the poem, as he watches "women come and go, talking of Michelangelo." (Eliot, 1420) The women in his company are educated, and paying him no attention. He as invisible to the people in his...