The Love Song of J.
Alfred PrufrockWhen our lives begin, we are innocent and life is beautiful, but as we grow older and time slowly and quickly passes we discover that not everything about life is quite so pleasing. Along with the joys and happiness we experience there is also pain, sadness and loneliness. Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” and Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” both tell us about older men who are experiencing these dreadful emotions. In Hemingway’s short story there are three characters, two waiters and their customer. Of these three, two are older men who are experiencing extreme loneliness.
The customer sits alone drinking his glasses of brandy slowly, and very carefully, peacefully becoming drunk. While he is meticulously drinking his alcohol, the two waiters talk about him. They discuss his suicide attempt of the week past. The younger waiter doesn’t seem to understand why a man with money would try to end his life. Although the older waiter seems to have an insight into the customer’s reason, he doesn’t share this with the younger one. He seems to know why this deaf old man is so depressed, and sits there alone and silent. When the younger waiter rushes the customer, the older waiter objects.
He knows what it is like to go home to emptiness at night, while the younger man goes home to his wife. The older waiter remarks on the differences between him and his younger companion when he says, “I have never had confidence and I am not young.” He tells the waiter and us that he prefers to stay in a well-lit place instead of going home to darkness and loneliness. When he does go home, he waits until daylight to sleep. The light seems to cure his inner darkness, his despair at being alone, and his despair at the “nada”-ness in his life but only temporarily.
In T.S. Eliot’s poem J. Alfred Prufrock tells the reader of his fear of rejection. He is a lonely man and wants to ask someone to make his life a little less desolate. He doesn’t know what to say or how to ask.
We are at a party, a setting Prufrock seems to visit often. He tells us about himself, his bald spot, his skinny arms and legs. He knows that the people at the party will talk about those flaws in his appearance. Prufrock is so unsure of himself that while trying to find a way to ask his question, he loses the opportunity to ask it. He loses his chance at ending the nothingness that seems to fill his life as well.
His uncertainty and his inferiority complex are touchingly revealed when he tells us, “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. // I do not think they will sing to me.” It is this forlorn attitude that moves us. He is extremely lonely and yet, he cannot do anything about it. In both these works men talk of loneliness and sadness. They are all alone in a world filled with people. The misery they experience from this feeling of solitude moves the reader because we have all at one point or another felt likewise even if not to that intensity.