After reading T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I decided I would look into the events that influenced Eliot’s writing as well as what people of that time era thought of his work.
When Eliot was vacationing in Europe, he found the influence for his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” At this time, Europe was in the fading days of the “Beautiful Age”. This era was a time right before the beginning of World War 1 when the standard of living was high, industries were booming, and peace and optimism were flowing. At this time, life in Europe was “grand” in a sense. However, instead of allowing his writings to reflect the beauty of the time, Eliot chose to write just the opposite. The poem is about a man named J. Alfred Prufrock. He had chosen to belittle himself and allowing little happiness to escape into his life. The man has an obvious fear of rejection from women and severely lacks social skills. He takes the reader through the shabbiest part of town as if to encourage his “pity-party” show casing his fear of fully living his life. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_%C3%89poque]
Above is a picture of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”.
After doing further research, I learned that Eliot was writing in this manor to contrast Prufrock from the rest of society to represent the beginning of modernist movement. As I previously mentioned people of this era were optimistic, open-minded, and enjoyed life. However, by completely contrasting Prufrock from the rest of society Eliot is seamlessly introduces the idea of “modernism” to his audience. I believe Eliot chose to write in this way because of his passion for modernism and the future. Eliot realizes that in the “Beautiful Age” the people of the early 1900’s ways of living is quickly on its way to out.
Though Eliot tried numerous times to distribute his work many publishers rejected the poem. After nearly five years after completion, Eliot finally succeeded in the publication of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in Poetry magazine. The poem was considered to be an experimental piece, but was still able to catch the eye of several notable scholars. The people of the 1900’s were not ready for such disheartening work and highly disapproved of the poem. In a column written in The London Times the “Literary Supplement” stated that “the fact that these things occurred to the mind of Mr. Eliot is surely of the very smallest importance to anyone, even to himself” proving that readers were simply not ready to leave the “Beautiful Age” for the upcoming modernistic era.
Though the fad of “modernism” has long past scholars today still seem to have negative feedback towards Eliot’s work. Today critics see his work as “a dark mope-fest” or in other words a self-pity poem. Garrison Keillor recently wrote “This poem pretty much killed off the pleasure of poetry” yet again proving that Eliot’s poem has yet to capture the interest of readers in a positive aspect due its almost pathetic poor-pitiful me tone. [http://www.shmoop.com/love-song-alfred-prufrock/]
The full column from Garrison Keillor’s critique can be found here in the fourth and fifth paragraphs: