Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot

The first time I encountered Prufrock was in AS English Literature. To give you a measure of the sort of man I am, I did not take the AS until my A2s and I completed it as an extra module. Reason being that at AS level I did not like the books they had chosen and when I did it as extra module I was able to pick my own. This meant I could pick Frankenstein which is an excellent book and led me to the Sorrows of Young Werther which is also more than worth the read.

For all my arrogance, it worked in my favour. That was the year they buggered up the marking on the English AS andI ended up loving History more than I could have realised. Led to me dropping Biology, which I was supposed to be doing for the benefit of my future Psychology degree, to carry it on to A2. There are a number of points that I can clearly see as turning points in my life with hindsight and sixth form was one of them.

So I had the book of AS English Literature poems before me and there was Prufrock.

I absolutely hated him.

He went on far too long, he was directionless and large sections had no point to them. What the hell does yellow smoke have to do with anything!?

Although I am becoming calmer as time goes on, there is still a desperate need for me to find a point in creative works to truly appreciate them. It would not be until the first summer of my university years that I started reading the works of Philip K. Dick and I was immediately entranced by all his varied worlds and universes that are meticulously constructed to explore an idea or philosophy. They have Purpose which, for all for my inner turmoil on religion, is something I truly believe in.

So I wrote the poem off, mumbled fuck you Elliot and used two other poems for the exam which I'm struggling to find in the recesses of my mind.

In the past couple of months in an ill-fated role, for reasons I cannot explain my brain threw up memories of Prufrock. Specifically the line

"And I have known the arms already, known them all-"

So I ended up hunting the poem down on the ever fantastic internet and read the poem through, something stupid like three times in a row. Since then he's been preying on my mind, I go back to the poem and rush through it whispering to my self breathlessly along the stream of consciousness that are his lines...

The change that has occured has been in me.

As he recalls how he has known the arms, I think of all the people I have known and cared for. The girls I loved and the ones that never quite were. [I've always read it as Prufrock simply knowing and being with the girls, I've never seen him as a promiscuous type. Now the question is whether that is because I am not and would sooner shape him in my mind to be like me?]

As he measures out his life in coffee spoons, I can only resonate as I have measured out my life in tea cups and pint glasses and that hint of pure, unadulterated boredom to the line, which questions should there have been more, should I have done more?

When he explores his position in life and concludes he is no Hamlet on the greater stage, is this not the question that runs through the minds of every graduate as they enter the 'real world'?

The quality of the poem has not changed for me, I still ask what the hell does yellow smoke have to do with anything, I still think it goes on too long and I still find the ending too lacklustre, however...

I understand him now.

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