Theme of Questioning One’s Own Identity in the Poem The Love Song by J. Alfred Prufrock

November 21, 2020 by Essay Writer

One of the many different types of characteristics of modernism in literature is that it questions self and identity by strong expression of emotion. Writers will often show modernism to dig deeper into the questions of self and identity. In poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,’ the writer struggles with questions of not only society but also the existence itself.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” he thinks to himself, ‘Do I dare disturb the universe?’ then later he reassures himself that ‘time for all the works and days of hands.’ The questions about himself and his identity in the poem concern meaning in the face of mortality. In his stream-of-consciousness observing the world around him, Prufrock confronts aspects of the modern world. In the opening line, he observes “half-deserted streets” and “one-night cheap hotels.” Eliot’s poetry considers life in an urban setting where he puts a dark setting over the city life with “The yellow fog” and “The yellow smoke” making the poem almost tenser.

Modernism is a rejection or an “alternative” of Romanticism, which meant it often used nature as a subject or even a setting. Nature was used to express the strong and deep emotions of the writer to almost be symbolic to show a deeper meaning. Many modernists writings used a realistic or urban setting.

Poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ uses both. The city is full of ‘yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes.’ lingering on pools of water in the streets and covered in ‘soot that falls from chimneys.’ Indoors, the poem takes place in either drawing rooms or ballrooms. But then nature is only present when the writer is thinking about a different time period, which usually involves being rejected, lost, or forgotten.

Another thing, which is related to questions of self and identity in modernism is the sense of isolation and being forgotten. This strong feeling of isolation shows the expression and the emotions of J. Alfred Prufrock. The writer often takes a drift into the past. He talks about his past visits and the parties and says that he has ‘known them all already, known them all,’ the tone if this writing makes it sound as if he is observing the situation and has never actually been a part of it, like watching the action happen around him but not feeling connected to it.


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