Bowel... I mean, Literary Movements

by Daniel J. Durand

Alright, for this assignment I picked the “Modernist” movement, because the stream-of-consciousness style was spawned from it. I absolutely despise stream-of-consciousness style, it's poorly written and irresponsible and downright Communist, because that's another un-American concept. I'm going to start out with the small stuff and work my way up, proving how this whole idea is not fit for TP.


“The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock,” commonly shortened to “Prufrock” and from this point onward referred to as “Lame Excuse”, is the piece I will be reducing to ash today. To put it simply, I cannot grasp this guy's point. “Love Song” makes me think of, you know, love. A pretty girl, swooning guy, they hold hands and the crowd goes “Awww...” Instead, we get stream-of-consciousness nonsense, and I say nonsense because T.S. Eliot may as well be speaking Klingon.

In lines 65 through 67, I'm still fairly sure I'm reading about a chick, 'cause he says, “Is it perfume from a dress/ That makes me so digress?/ Arms that lie about a table, or wrap about a shawl,” (649). That makes enough sense, he likes whats-her-face, and she's distracting him with her feminine charms. Fine. Good. Great. Spectacular! What's this line for: “In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo.” (648). It's all by itself, in a separate stanza. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to follow, but throughout this story Eliot also makes a reference to Hamlet, and yellow smoke. Stream-of-consciousness would imply that throughout the course of the story, we're hearing Prufrock's thoughts as he thinks them.

Maybe he should see a doctor. The idea is that Modernist poetry is fragmented, leaving the readers to come up with the meaning of the writing themselves. A convenient explanation for my inability to understand why the poem goes all over the place with no point to it whatsoever. When I'm around a pretty girl, my thoughts don't do this stream-of-consciousness stuff. My thoughts are pretty focused on her, and whether or not she's talking to me or my ability to help her with algebra. Prufrock seems like he's tripping acid or something, going on about “To have squeezed the universe into a ball” (650). If I can't understand your point, and you go on and on without making any sense, don't worry, because you are not a bad writer. You're a Modernist.

Basically we have a loose, poorly concentrated piece of writing with little real meaning. Perhaps if he stayed to the point, collected his thoughts, Eliot could actually make this work, but instead we have a lot of rambling. I know, this is only one poem, so it's probably not fair to judge an entire movement of writing by only the one work. I'm doing it anyway.

The Modernist movement got started right after World War One. From what I've read in class, apparently people on all sides of the conflict left the war with a bad taste in their mouths after seeing the killing, the death, the loss. War is not a fun outing, and after people realized this, they sort of shrugged off whatever values they had before the war. They had just witnessed how low humanity can be, and so they decided not to bother trying anymore. Modernists began to appear, trying to put this onto paper, writing in “fragments” and later stream-of-consciousness (as I mentioned, the thoughts of a person as they are being thought) to copy the feeling of a broken, distant world that was apparently going around after the time.

This makes sense to me. WWI was a nasty war, ushering in awesome weapons and tactics like gas, airplanes, trench warfare and widespread use of machine-guns. Europe became a butcher shop. When it was over we wanted a break, to blow off steam and relax. Our social protocols were revised around this, leading to “flappers”, partying, good times and little responsibilities. We started making money, a lot of money, and spending just as much. The Roaring Twenties were a coping period, something to say, “Yeah, life sucks, but who cares when we can have fun?” Almost like high school.

Now, if we look at most individuals who go down this route (most people from their teenage years to mid-twenties), we see that life is a ton 'o fun while the party is on, not a care in the world. Then we have to “grow up”, settle down, have kids and work at a real job. Does it surprise you that the Great Depression came right after the Roaring Twenties? The party was over, we had a major hangover, and then we go into World War Two embracing apple pie, the flag, Uncle Sam and everything Americanly patriotic. It reminds me of the person who has a wild night Saturday and then goes to church to get clean. Around this time we became pretty conservative again, finishing out the cycle as those crazy kids became parents themselves.

I think this is a common theme in American history, or at least it was during the last century. Vietnam is a great example. We got into a big, horrible mess, and got tired of trying to clean it up. Hippies! Make love, not war! Hippies were basically the organic, tree-hugging, socialist counterparts to the clean-shaven, factory-building swing-dancers of the Twenties. Look at the hippies now; still wearing tie-die, some still high, but many now with shorter hair and if not retired working 9 to 5.

This totally applies to “Lame Excuse”, because we see a loose form. “It doesn't want to follow the rules, man!” Stream-of-consciousness; “It's like, the way my mind works, dude!” Lack of a point? “Whoa, man, just slow your bad vibes, you're bringing me down.” In other words, I have to be on something? “Like, man, I can feel EVERY ATOM IN THE UNIVERSE!” Okay...

Really, that's my whole point with this essay. A bunch of guys get together and decide to break away from the mainstream, and yet, fifty years after Eliot and Friends do this, Joe Burnout and the Tie-Dye Commune do the same thing. So who broke off of the mainstream before the Modernists? Some other movement did. Today, we have the people my age and a bit older who want to fight global warming. If it was mainstream to do this, I bet college kids would find something else, but because it makes their parents roll their eyes... Point is, all three of these groups just wanted to be rebels

I think that explains it all pretty well. It was groundbreaking because no one in recent memory had done this type of thing (the Modernists got ideas from Ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Japanese texts), and since it was “different” and not necessarily “good” because it didn't follow the “rules” that said whether or not a work is “good” but let the reader decide the “meaning” so they, as writers, didn't have to “try”. “Quotation marks”



Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The American Experience. New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2000. 647-651.

Prentice-Hall. “The Story of the Times” Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The American Experience. New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2000. 636-641.

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Poohgranma 5 years ago from On the edge

I don't have the benefit of your education but it sounds right to me. I'm a child of the sixties though so I may just be agreeing with you to keep the flow. Peace and love to you brother!

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