Summary: the Modernism in American Literature

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Modernism erupted in the late 19th, early 20th century and was a “radical approach that yearned to revitalize the way modern civilization viewed life, art, politics, and science” according to the article History of Modernism. The modernist American literature produced during the time reflects themes of destruction and chaos. Literature writers, such as T.S. Eliot who wrote “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock,” shifted towards the exploration of the meaning and purpose of life. In the poem, Prufrock questions himself on whether or not to change his way of living in order to please others out of fear. Afterwards, he began constantly living his life in fear of society just like how others fear society today.

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In the poem, the first fear Prufrock shows is of women. He craves a romantic relationship with the opposite sex, and wants to romance one woman in particular, but if afraid of rejection. As a modernist man of the time, his inability to get a woman causes feelings of bitterness and resentment. Prufrock even experienced great difficulty trying to talk with women he takes to bed. He imagined forming some big question, while in bed with a lover, but then meets with the response, “That is not it at all,/That is not what I meant at all .” Prufrock fears making himself look vulnerable to women, because if he did so the women wouldn’t understand or empathize with what he is saying, leading him to feel more alone than he already is. Prufrock’s continuation fear of women is also shown in the poems lines 19 and 20, talking about how women speaks casually of Michelangelo, who was an artist at the time, makes him believe that women are too shallow to connect with him. They disregard the classics of art and they do not think about life on the same level as Prufrock.

Prufrock repeats to himself that, “indeed there will be time.” This is used in order to reassure himself that he does not need to meet the women in rooms just yet. There is time left for him and a woman he loves to meet and talk. Prufrock believes that there is enough time for his, “…a hundred visions and revisions/Before the taking of a toast and tea.” He does not only seem to be afraid of confronting women who talk of Michelangelo, Prufrock is also intimidated by the social interaction he has to engage in.“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet,” Prufrock’s social anxiety results in the lack of self confidence because he worries too much about how others see him. He feels the need to put up a face just to fit in with everyone else. He also tries giving himself a pep talk before talking or meeting with others. In addition to his fear of social conversations, Prufrock starts to point out his insecurities.

In the eighth stanza of the poem, Prufrock complains about how he has a bald spot on his head and how others will think his hair is growing thin. He also believes the way he dresses will set people off to judgment. In line 48-50 it says, “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin/ My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —/ (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”).” Just by what he is wearing, he believes others would judge the way his figure looks. This low self esteem and the fear of judgment from others is also shown in today’s society.

In today’s society, people fear to find love and they fear judgement from others just like Prufrock did in Eliot’s poem. People in today’s society, like Prufrock, feel like they aren’t enough for the one they like, so they end up doing exactly like what Prufrock did. They will criticize themselves and fall into the hole of low self confidence. Women would cover themselves up with makeup and hide behind filters while men would try working out everyday to achieve the societies standard body. Adding to that, social media plays a role in a lot of people’s low self confidence. Unlike in Prufrock’s time, today’s society has technology that allows you to view others lifestyle through a screen. What others post can affect one to try and change themselves just to be seen by the person. Prufrock wants to be noticed and be loved back by the woman he loves. People today can access the net to find people’s “type” so they can be noticed. Thus making today’s society having a set standard for both men and women. People want to change their natural lifestyle just to be accepted by society. Otherwise they feel the judgement from others. 

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