Uploaded by ProcrastinationStartsHere on Oct 23, 2007
Manifested in many forms throughout society, alienation is representative of the incongruency of individualism in a society demanding conformity. These societal pressures cause a despairing sense of detachment between people, their world and their sense of self. The plight of man in a modern society as a result of the societal expectations of conformity is the primary concern of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, while Gwen Harwood’s poem, “In the Park” similarly deals with the loss of human potential in a superficial world bounded by the constraints of society. W.H. Auden’s poem, “Miss Gee” deals too with the alienation of a woman who feels isolated as a result of her lack of meaningful relationships. Alienation as a result of the pressure individuals feel to conform to the ideals of their society leads to an inauthentic life characterised by flawed and superficial relationships.
It is the ability of an individual to comprehend their isolation and estrangement that leads to the greatest sense of despair. The tragedy of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is the persona’s awareness of his own inadequacies as he, alone in a room, reveals the inner thoughts and fears he is too inhibited to otherwise express. Eliot’s intertextual link to Dante’s “Inferno” in the epigraph frames the poem and acts as a parallel to the internal hell Prufrock experiences in his alienation from his superficial society and his own dreams. Prufrock’s insecurities stem from his own fear of rejection and feeling of inferiority, inspired by the “women com[ing] and go[ing], talking of Michelangelo” and other greats, can be recognised through his revelation that “I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be”. As a result of the emphasis on the superficial Prufrock feels judged and inadequate, shown by his paranoia he has of his aging appearance. The metaphorical insect pinned helplessly to a board, “pinned and wriggling on the wall”, is an apt description of Prufrock who feels trapped, tortured and paralysed by his craving for an intimacy he deems impossible with the woman he secretly fancies. The exotic imagery of Prufrock’s dreams only serve to alienate him further as “I have heard the mermaids singing… / but I do not think they will sing to me”. Symbolic of potential romance, unknown in Prufrock’s life because of his insecurities and fear of rejection, the mermaids’ rejection of him is verification...