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T. S. Eliot
June 1915, by T. S. Eliot
Poetry, dramatic monologue
The poem consists of the musings of Prufrock, a weary middle-aged man haunted by the feeling that he has lost both youth and happiness: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
The poem, described as a "drama of literary anguish", is a dramatic interior monologue of an urban man, stricken with feelings of isolation and an incapability for decisive action. Prufrock laments his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and lack of spiritual progress, and is haunted by reminders of unattained carnal love. The poem is full of visceral feelings of weariness, regret, embarrassment, longing, emasculation, sexual frustration, a sense of decay, and an awareness of mortality.
The poem's structure was heavily influenced by Eliot's extensive reading of Dante Alighieri and makes several references to the Bible and other literary works. Eliot narrates the experience of Prufrock using the stream of consciousness technique developed by his fellow Modernist writers. Eliot’s experiment with poetic form, metre, rhyme, and voice was a radical departure from the restrictions of established forms and diction.
“Prufrock” was both Eliot’s first major publication and the first masterpiece of modernism in English. At the time of its publication, Prufrock was considered outlandish, but is now seen as heralding a paradigmatic cultural shift from late 19th-century Romantic verse and Georgian lyrics to Modernism.
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