Analysis Of Eliot’s Poetry: The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock And Preludes

Thomas Stearns Eliot was an American-English Poet, literary critic, editor, playwright, and the leader of the Modernist movement in Poetry. His poems display the anxieties of living in the modern world. He espouses the belief that the lack of meaning in society is caused by the decline of Christian and Religious values. Such ideas are driven ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and ‘Preludes’. Eliot demonstrates how one’s fear of judgement can lead to paralysis and an unfruitful life. Readers sympathise with the characters plights and gain a heightened understanding of what it means to be human.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” displays the complexities of the modern world through the repetitive inner monologue of Prufrock, a man with many unfulfilled desires who is searching for love and meaning. He is portrayed as a man who is paralysed by feelings of alienation and inadequacy, making him incapable of making decisions. Eliot produces a melancholy tone by describing the nights as “restless” and the streets as “tedious arguments of insidious intent”. This creates an uninviting scene of one man’s boring and meaningless life. As the poem continues, we again see Prufrock’s feelings of discontentment and boredom. We soon learn that Prufrock is a very self-conscious, timid man. Through the repetition in “I grow old… I grow old…” we recognise that Prufrock is aware of the passing time and that he is growing older. He feels a sense of regret that he has wasted his life doubting himself and waiting to make a decision. This poignant poem still holds relevance to 21st century audiences, as feelings of alienation and insecurity are universal concepts that many individuals have experienced.

T.S Eliot’s ‘Preludes’ also displays the universal themes of alienation and isolation. Eliot is able to paint a depressing image of the urban environment and discusses the isolation attached with repeating the daily meaningless routines. Eliot suggests that this monotony is a result of the lack of religious belief and spirituality in modern society. “On broken blinds and chimney pots” metaphorically emphasises the loneliness and exhaustion of those living in the harsh, fragmented society. Readers are confronted with the image of this hopeless world where streets are lonely and desolate. “The world’s revolved like ancient women / gathering fuel in vacant lots” uses a simile to point out the unfruitful, monotonous life that individuals are living. ‘Preludes’ allows the audience to see Eliot’s concern with the weakening of religious values and the consequential stagnation and decay of modern reality. This poem may provoke readers to revaluate their own existence, and question whether they need to change the way they are living.

In conclusion, Eliot’s poetry examines human behaviour and the complexities that exist in life, and captures the angst and loss of purpose when living in the meaninglessness of the modern world. Although the poems were written in a time with different values and beliefs, they contain a universal voice that transcends its time and place, allowing the texts to resonate amongst modern audiences. 

16 August 2021
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