Melancholic Modernism: An Analysis of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Essay by poonjabbyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, September 2005

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Melancholic Modernism.

"When I had journeyed half of our life's way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray." (Alighieri, 1980, p.3)

Modernism. "A term referring to the literature and art developed during the early part of the twentieth century beginning with World War I and lasting until World War II. It is defined by its rejection of classical literary conventions and traditions of the nineteenth century and by its opposition to morality." (Bellisario, 2005, p.132) Scientific rationalization has largely grown in the 20th century. This inevitably attracted more people towards humanism and consequently, an abandonment of God.

Eliot begins his poem by alluding to Dante's Inferno; specifically, he quotes one sinner's conversation with Dante:

If I believed my answer were being made to one who could ever return to the world, this flame could shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, never from this abyss did living men return, I answer thee without fear of infamy.

Eliot tells the reader that he will speak the truth because he neither cares about confrontation nor reputation. He can go no further in his life.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" describes a man's frustration towards existentialism in the 20th century. Though fictional, Prufrock undoubtedly reflects Eliot's views. The narrator unveils through a dramatic monologue the difficulties and dissatisfaction of life. Modern man has discarded traditional values of Christian and classical societies. As a result, they felt a sense of alienation, felt loss and despair, and felt that they had no basis for hope - an underlying theme of Eliot's ballad. The almost frightening portrayal of the "you and I" in line 7 is ironically speaking to himself (as if looking into a mirror), and an...