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A comparison of Themes and Ideas in Love Song of Alfred Prufrock and Potrait of a Lady

Updated on May 13, 2015

There is no doubt that title of the portrait of a lady was taken from the most celebrated novel of Henry James, The portrait of a lady (Bercovitch, 2003, 99). However, the poem offers contrast to the ideas in the love song. In particular, there is noticeable complementation between the ideas that the two poems express. The perception attributed to both of the poems however, merges into one absolute aesthetic unity. Further, the narrator of the Portrait heavily relies on urban surrounding delineation and the atmosphere to illustrate mutual alienation and inertia. Season imagery plays a dominant role in casting of imagery.

In addition, the narrator makes four visits and meticulously specifies December, August, April and October to reflect the advancement of action and time. Moreover, the poem vividly expresses specific themes through its lines. For instance, the theme of death in life and life in death is expressed in line five ‘four rings of light upon the ceiling’. This line subsequently creates the atmosphere of the tomb of Juliet in Shakespearen Play; where Juliet had been thought to have been dead when she was only in a coma. The figurative contents of the image of December are warranted by the dramatic image of the burial place of Juliet and recolor the thematic suggestions of allusion (Southam, 1994, 45).

In the love song of Alfred Prufrock, Eliot had employed several themes to express different ideas. For instance, he used the damaged psyche of humanity to show the psychological humanity state in the twentieth century. He had seen a wounded and paralyzed society, and he imagined that culture was dissolving and crumbling. This poem demonstrates the sense of vacillating paralysis even as the ostensible speaker wonders whether to make a drastic change, eat a piece of fruit, or even if he no longer had an ego to continue living. This damaged psyche in humanity has prevented communication between people, an idea which Eliot explored in this work. Furthermore, the ever-changing nature of gender roles is also another theme expressed by Eliot in the love song of Alfred Prufrock (Mayer, 2011,182). This is because all through his life, sexuality and gender roles became gradually more flexible. Additionally, the Love Song tries to reflect the emasculation feeling that many men experienced after they returned to their homes from the World War 1 only to find their women empowered by a new role as wage earners.

The speaker, unable to come to a decision, watches women as they wander in and out of rooms and elsewhere with their fluffy, naked hands. It may not be easy to interpret all the themes in this poem since it is primarily apprehensive of the unbalanced musings of the narrator. It presents the apparently arbitrary thoughts that run through the head of a person within a specific time interval, and in which the intermediary links are not logical but psychological, the stylistic choice causes the difficulty in determining exactly what is symbolic and what is literal.

How they deal with similar theme or Idea

"Portrait of a Lady" is characteristic to the love song of Alfred J Prufrock since it is largely preoccupied with bourgeois way of life of the English environment of Eliot. In addition, it candidly presents a male’s mind in an emotionless relationship with a woman who is sophisticated. Further, the two poems are remarkably comparable in their reconciled language and tone. They tend to share phrases and words like “dying fall" and "fog" although they take on dissimilar approaches to romance in the twentieth century middle- class society. While “Portrait" examines an uneasy and desperate woman’s romantic advances from an apathetic narrators perspective, "Prufrock" depicts a male narrator’s lack of ability to make a decision as he ponders his confusing relationship with a woman that he loves. On the other hand, "Portrait of a Lady" might be seen a model of whatever was going to happen to Prufrock if he dared to confess the feelings of his heart, but his fears are turned out to be true. The lady courageously discusses her hopes of a much deep friendship with the speaker, but her sensation is unrequited and ultimately she ends up hurt by this confession when the narrator travels abroad. Moreover, in both stories it is difficult to identify the actual situation of the narrators, whether they are actually talking to some other person or o themselves.

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