Nancy's right on here. Prufrock-Littau (if my memory
serves me) was the name of a furniture store in St. Louis where Eliot grew up.
The connotations of Prufrock's names are also significant: Alfred, like the
heroic king -- also a very English name and rather old; Prufrock, which combines
something like 'prude' and 'frock', definitely a recent name, and not English.
These two names alone form a paradox. In addition, the title as a whole rings
paradoxically -- the love song of who? Not some Romantic name, but rather the
very business-card-like "J. Alfred Prufrock." Pretty sanitary.
The poem has been interpreted various ways, as a critique of early 20th
century society (the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo) or of modern
man (Prufrock himself as an impotent man -- in many ways), etc. Personally I
read the poem as a collection of many of these interpretations (Eliot was rather
profound, you know!) as well as an autobiographical account from a young Eliot
in the mouth of Prufrock, trying to decide whether to become a poet or not.
Will he get inspiration? Should he keep up with the fads or be true to his own
sense of what is important? What if no one cares, even if he said something
stunningly new? The 'you' and 'I', then, would be Eliot talking to himself,
perhaps something very much like the difference between "the man who suffers and
the mind which creates" (from "Tradition and the Individual Talent").
Just some thoughts. Hope things go well for your class this evening. You
are privileged to be in the shrinking number of those who love learning.
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There was a business sign in St. Louis with the name "Prufrock"
on it, and
the name has been attributed to that. Eliot also said he
chose it just
because of the sound. He said various things at various
Mon, 12 May 2003 11:41:03 -0400
to: "T. S. Eliot
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Re: An amateur Eliot enthusiast's wild
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Thanks to everyone for the advice, corrections, and
encouragement. I have
my class tonight and we will be discussing Prufrock.
Does anyone know
Eliot chose that name? What does J stand for? And of
course if you want
tell me what the poem means to you, I would love to
hear. Will be
interesting to compare to the class's ideas. However I am
mostly 19 y/o who just want to go out and party. Am one of the