Comparison Of The Love Song Of Alfred J. Prufrock By T.s. Eliot And Fern Hill By Dylan Thomas
It is certain that aging and death are two of life’s inevitabilities. However, how one decides to deal with these inevitabilities varies from person to person. Both The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock by T.S. Eliot and Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas set out to tackle these ideas, but in varying ways with different perspectives. However, though both speakers approach the subject in different fashions they both ultimately support the same idea: to achieve maturity means to suffer the loss of your innocence.
The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock is told from the perspective of a speaker, Prufrock, who holds a very grim point of view. This is evident through the imagery presented, detailing a gloomy cityscape filled reflective of his own dreary thoughts. Prufrock lacks greatly in any sort of self-esteem and dislikes himself, which is evident through the imagery in lines 57- 61 when he compares himself to an insect “pinned and wriggling on the wall” (Eliot), and again in lines 73-74 in which he sees himself as a lowly crustacean on the sea floor when he states “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas” (Eliot). He makes us think that he has sacrificed much to get to this point in his life. He has “wept and fasted, wept and prayed”. Aging, through Prufrock’s eyes, means to sacrifice and inevitably lose some part of yourself. In the end he succumbs to harsh reality whilst fantasising about the mermaids who sing to each other but who will never sing to him.. Eliot's poem is full of metaphor and simile, simple rhyme and complex rhythms. Prufrock is an anxious, neurotic individual whose mind tends to wander. This can be seen as the poem moves from a series of fairly concrete physical settings — a cityscape, a “patient etherised upon a table” and several interiors, women’s arms in the lamplight, coffee spoons, fireplaces — to a series of vague ocean images. This is also used to convey Prufrock’s emotional distance from the world as he comes to recognize his second-rate status stating “I am not Prince Hamlet’.
This persistently grim outlook contrasts greatly to that of the speaker in Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill. The poem first introduces the speaker whilst he is looking back on his time spent at his childhood sanctuary known as Fern Hill. “Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green” (Thomas, 1-2), this demonstrates the speaker’s nostalgic outlook at his past, he sees his childhood as something enjoyable and not to be detested. The structure of the poem is extremely subtle, and the flow relies on half-rhymes as well as internal rhymes, as opposed to the more traditional full rhymes at the end of each line. The lack of structure is used to great effect, as it evokes and mimics the way memory wanders and recalls the past in small pieces at a time. Lines such as “happy as the grass was green” (Thomas, 2) and “as I was green and carefree” (Thomas, 10) highlight the cheerfulness of the child, while also planting positive images in the reader’s mind. He points out daisies, light, rivers, apple trees, and the sun throughout, and also describes activities like singing, playing, and being carefree. The entire introduction to the poem is filled with language that is easily interpreted as joyous, even as the story itself moves rapidly from image to image, and adventure to adventure. Recalling the events of their childhood leads the narrator to feel happiness, and to associate each memory with fondness and laughter, and the reader is meant to as well. The way the speaker describes this world; it appears to be a timeless world without a sense of loss and decay. Though the majority of the poem is filled with joyful imagery it eventually reaches its turning point when the speaker is brought back into reality. Fern Hill concludes with a subtle, but definite shift towards the present, and concludes in such a way that it reads almost like a eulogy, as the present speaker mourns the “death” of their past self. Of course, the story itself is proof that the child never truly died, but rather grew up, to become a person who looks back on those years with a happiness that would be very difficult to ever match again. This initiation of the world of maturity entails the loss of bliss, innocence, and freedom.
Both speakers are in similar situations but address them in diverging ways. As can be observed in The Love Story of Alfred J. Prufrock, the speaker is tackling the rather dark issues of mortality, aging, and growing so he proceeds to address them in a dark manner, as seen with lines such as “like a patient etherized upon a table”. This contrasts to the initial tone of the speaker in Fern Hill, who addresses the topic more idyllically with his serene imagery. Another difference comes from the role air plays in both their lives. The speaker in Thomas’ poem notes this with his simple recollection of Fern Hill — 'it was air”. Air is, of course, necessary for life, but also invisible and easy to take for granted, just as the young narrator doesn't fully appreciate Fern Hill. It is the air of freedom, and everything is made of it like ‘castles in the air' - it is the 'other air', of morning songs, of chimney tunes, of the child's horns and the bark of foxes. This differentiates from Prufrock’s description of the air, which is filled with a constricting “yellow fog” and “yellow smoke”. This description demonstrates Prufrock’s perception of the adult world being dingy and somber, as opposed to Fern Hill’s liberating clean air. Additionally, both writers use imagery to great effect.