Beauty for the Populous and Prufrock

Beauty is such a general term. There are no set guidelines dictating what is beautiful and what is not. The extent of beauty is but limited to the viewers own personal perception. Interpretations are left open ended and leave room for contradictions. Prufrock in T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", has a less than stereotypical idea of beauty.


T.S. Eliot Reads "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by brainpicker

A Closer Look into Prufrock's World...

Prufrock is ultimately a hermit and an outcast in society. The understanding of beauty within the poem helps to illustrate this issue. Society's sense of beauty has more emphasis on the stereotypical PHYSICAL ideals of beauty.
"Perfume from a dress"

"Arms that lie alone a table,or wrap about a shawl"

"Arms that are braceleted and white and bare"

"...part my hair behind? "

"...skirts that trail along the floor - "

Prufrock's understanding of beauty takes on a different look. He places emphasis on the beauty of eerie yellow fog among deserted streets and provides imagery that is suggestive of a lingering cat. His perception of beauty highlights gloomier scenes. The painting he creates is one that is lonely and out of place in society, much like himself.

"The yellow fog that rubs it's back..."

"And seeing that it was a soft October night,

curled once about the house, and fell asleep..."

"Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains..."

"Evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table"

"I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?"

These differences in attitude towards beauty isolate Prufrock from society. His contrasting approach to thinking condemns him to be an outcast in a superficial and judgmental world. He recognizes that by exposing himself to society he will be labeled. Fearing the judgement of others, he distances himself from people and inflicts upon himself a lonely empty existence.

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"And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was AFRAID. "

Prufrock does not imagine himself fitting into society's understanding of beauty.

[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]

[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]

The problem lies in Prufrock himself though and not society. Though society itself does provide possible obstacles to Prufrock because of his different perceptions, the ultimate obstacle is Prufrock's resulting fear. His fear of judgement causes his own seclusion. Prufrock's concepts of beauty are not 'wrong' because they are different. Prufrock must stand up for himself and learn to ignore and overlook societies arbitrary eye. If he put himself out there and socialized he would come to learn that he is not alone. With some confidence, Prufrock would be able to find a greater sense of belonging and happiness.

To Dare, or not to Dare? That is the question. . .

And Hey, Prufrock? Here's a HINT: It's the first one.
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Thanks For Reading