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Essay/Term paper: Eliot's views of sexuality as revealed in the behavior of prufrock and sweeney

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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Eliot's Views of Sexuality as Revealed in the Behavior of Prufrock and Sweeney

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" tells the story of a single
character, a timid, middle-aged man. Prufrock is talking or thinking to himself.
The epigraph, a dramatic speech taken from Dante's "Inferno," provides a key to
Prufrock's nature. Like Dante's character Prufrock is in "hell," in this case
a hell of his own feelings.
He is both the "you and I" of line one, pacing the city's grimy streets
on his lonely walk. He observes the foggy evening settling down on him.
Growing more and more hesitant he postpones the moment of his decision by
telling himself "And indeed there will be time."
Prufrock is aware of his monotonous routines and is frustrated, "I have
measured out my life with coffee spoons":. He contemplates the aimless pattern
of his divided and solitary self. He is a lover, yet he is unable to declare
his love. Should a middle-aged man even think of making a proposal of love? "Do
I dare/Disturb the universe?" he asks.
Prufrock knows the women in the saloons "known them all" and he presumes
how they classify him and he feels he deserves the classification, because he
has put on a face other than his own. "To prepare a face to meet the faces that
you meet." He has always done what he was socially supposed to do, instead of
yielding to his own natural feelings. He wrestles with his desires to change
his world and with his fear of their rejection. He imagines how foolish he
would feel if he were to make his proposal only to discover that the woman had
never thought of him as a possible lover; he imagines her brisk, cruel response;
"That is not what I meant, at all."
He imagines that she will want his head on a platter and they did with
the prophet John the Baptist. He also fears the ridicule and snickers of other
men when she rejects him.
Prufrock imagines "And would it have been worth it, after all," and if
she did not reject him it would bring him back to life and he could say "I am
Lazarus, come from the dead."
Prufrock decides that he lacks the will to make his declaration. "I am
not Prince Hamlet," he says; he will not, like Shakespeare's character, attempt
to shake off his doubts and "force the moment to crisis." He feels more like an
aging Fool. He is able only to dream of romance. He is depressed "I grow old"
and will have to "wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled" into cuffs.
He will "walk upon the beach," though he probably will not venture into
the water. He has had a romantic vision of mermaids singing an enchanting song,
but assumes that they will not sing to him. Prufrock is paralyzed, unable to
act upon his impulses and desires. He will continue to live in "the chambers of
the sea," his world of romantic daydreams, until he is awakened by the "human
voices" of real life in which he "drowns."
The "love song" of Mr. Prufrock displays several levels of irony, the
most important of which grows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his
sterile life and his lack of will to change that life. The poem brings out
images of enervation and paralysis, such as the evening described as
"etherized," immobile. No one will ever hear his love song, except himself.
"Sweeney Among the Nightingales" tells a story of a man motivated by
lust and hunger. Eliot gives us an insight into Sweeney's true nature by giving
him the first name of "Apeneck." Sweeney is more like a primitive man who has
no morals for when he dies he "guards the horned gate," the gates of hell.
Eliot is comparing the death of a king, Agamemnon, to the death of a bum,
Agamemnon is the leader of the Greeks besieging Troy. Upon returning
home he was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra. Sweeney is murdered by Rachel
nee Rabinovitch, who I believe was engaged to Sweeney, a marriage that was
arranged by her family.
Rachel, "She and the lady in the cape/ Are suspect, thought to be in
league"; , plotted or payed the lady in the Spanish cape to help her.
The lady in the cape meets Sweeney at a tavern and undertakes to get him
drunk in order to deceive him. His eyes "Are veiled, and hushed the shrunken
seas," and he begins to trust the lady in the cape. "The person in the Spanish
cape/Tries to sit on Sweeney's knees," she then tries to seduce Sweeney and is
successful. "The silent man in mocha brown" watches the seduction and "gapes."
"The silent vertebrate in brown" is in reality Rachel in disguise.
Surely, Sweeney would not fall to the charms of the lady in the cape if he knew
Rachel was watching. Rachel realizes what her life would be like as Sweeney's
wife and is appalled. She then poison's the fruit that the waiter has brought
The poison is starting to work for Sweeney becomes sleepy. "Therefore
the man with heavy eyes/ Declines the gambit, shows fatigue." He decides not to
gamble or play any games. "Leaves the room and reappears/Outside the window,
leaning in" Sweeney leans in the window and dies. "Circumscribe a golden grin,"
Sweeney dies with a grin of his face that reveal a mouth full of gold capped
Eliot becomes philosophical for the nightingales continue to sing for a
bum and king, alike. "The nightingales are singing near/The Convent of the
Sacred Heart," the exquisite music of the nightingales sounded when the mortal
blow was struck in Ancient Greece; and they sing while Sweeney is under the eye
of the man in mocha brown.
"And let their liquid siftings fall/ To stain the stiff dishonored
shroud.", The nightingales and nature are indifferent to a man's station in life.
We are born into this world as equals and will leave it the same way and the
nightingales give no honor to anyone.
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Sweeney Among the
Nightingales" were written by T. S. Eliot in the early 20th century. The poems
reveal that the author feels that he is inferior to women. He does not deserve
the love of a maiden, but is only suitable for a prostitute. The lines where he
refers to the prophet John the Baptist and to Lazarus tells me that he has a
deep interest in religion and Christianity. Religion does dictate strong views
of sex and marriage, whereas a man must suppress all feelings of lust and desire,
unless it is directed toward his own wife.


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