Prufrock in the Pudding

Today I had my rock star English students respond to lines in the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  Here is MY response.  Student responses follow as comments.  Enjoy!

 

 

For I have known them all already, known them all;

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

 

T.S Eliot

Poor J Alfred Prufrock.

When I teach this poem to my high school English classes, students find it difficult to identify with the balding, socially inept Prufrock and consider him  to be pathetic at most. What they can identify with, however, is the idea of  symbolically measuring the “worth” of one’s life with a repetitive action or routine. Actions or routines that help define who we are.

A validation, or proof of sorts, that we exist.

J. Alfred’s measurement is the endless afternoons he spends alone contemplating his inadequacies over endless cups of tepid sludgy tea.

Sad, but there it is.

I’ve had students state they’re measuring their life  with dance recitals performed, or hockey games played. Proof that some thing had been accomplished.  My graduates have been measuring their lives by papers or midterms written (Facebook statuses read “only 2 more to go until summer break!  Only 1 more to go!).  Proof that learning has occurred (… or in some cases, maybe not!)

I believe our “units” of measurement vary depending on what time in life we happen to be treading. I took the year off  work some years ago and I kept track of all the wonderful books I read during that time. THAT’s how I measured my life during my hiatus.

And it felt good

and full

and worth my while.

Proof that I finished a story, a different story every time a new book opened.  Stories that contributed to my own.

Is life measured in paychecks earned?  Children birthed?  Hearts broken? Or do you find a more symbolic value in the little actions that fill your days like smiles performed and good deeds accomplished.

Proof that you’ve worked.

Proof that you’ve loved.

Proof that you exist within someone else’s reality other than your own.

Every year when I teach this poem, I too try to come up with a measurement of my life.  Papers to be marked?  Hugs to be given? Stories to be written?

Here’s a question to ponder if you’ve got a moment:  How do you measure your life?  What action or routine is your symbol?  And once you’ve figured out what this is, are happy with with this revelation?  I think what you discover will say a lot about how you percieve yourself at this moment in time.

And if you don’t like it? Go out and pick out a better measuring stick.

P.S  And go and find yourself a copy of T.S Eliot’s “Love Song for J. Alfred Prufrock”!

13 Comments on “Prufrock in the Pudding

  1. And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions
    And for a hundred visions and revisions
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.
    […]
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    This passage in though provoking in that it explores the significance of each act we perform, big or small, good or bad. The author implies that each act has similar relevance. He suggests that each act is insignificant as “a minute will reverse” it.This concept brings to mind Mahatma Ghandi’s philosophy that “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” If I smile at a passing stranger is it any different than averting my eyes? Will this simple choice make any difference? Probably not. I could be cliche and claim that maybe that strange was having a bad day that my smile could have brightened. I could claim that my smile might have given them the incentive to keep on going. But, the truth is, that stranger is probably also simply passing by wondering if they should smile or turn away. The truth is, I probably wouldn’t change their life with a smile. The truth is I definitely won’t have any lasting impact on the earth. Any trace of me will have been ground into dust and left buried under more dust before the earth comes to an end. The truth is I am but a speck on a speck orbiting a twinkle in an infinity of darkness.
    Maybe the point of life is not about changing lives and surmounting mountains. Maybe life is about accepting that we are nothing.
    And yet for a heartbeat we can try to be everything.
    This passage is enthralling because it recognizes the importance of “the taking of toast and tea” along side the relevance “to murder and create”. The passage both elevates and negates the significance of our lives, of our every choice and our every act. The idea that the ‘little things’ are important is exemplified. However the passage also degrades the ‘big things.’
    I believe the author is trying to teach us to embrace our ordinariness. We need to accept that we have no impact on the universe, just on one moment in time. We need to accept that all we get is a passing glance from the universe. We need to accept that have to be who we want to be, not because someone told us to, not because we think we can impact the world, not because we want to be recognized or admired or immortalized; but because we want to be. There is time to “prepare a face” and to perform grandiose gesturers of creation and destruction. There is time to go through the motions of fulfilling societies requirements and our own arrogant objectives. However, we are really here to contemplate our significance. We are here to make “decisions and revisions” about our selves, while accepting that they only matter to us. Because when the earth finally implodes and the universe collapses, it doesn’t matter what the obituary says. You know if you were happy. You know if you did what you meant to.

  2. No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two

    I believe this passage, which sounds so sad at first, is actually the healthiest conclusion Prufrock could have come to.

    As J. Alfred Prufrock made allusion to Prince Hamlet previously in the poem, it was easy to see the similarities between the two. Both are men who desire greatness from life, but cannot make up their minds to take the action needed to achieve it. However, it is at this point in the poem that Prufrock was able to leave those resemblances behind. He chose instead the role of a servant, limiting himself to having a small effect on the action of the play.

    What a great choice.

    In most modern cultures, including our own, we are taught that success equals certain things. In his play, Hamlet strove towards and struggled with easily relatable goals. Revenge. Honour. Morality. We understand these and their function. We find them admirable. And yet, Prufrock is seeking none of this. He has instead abandoned the foreground for what I think is the more suitable background. As a society, we would look upon such a choice with derision. We would see it as giving up. Few people will look at someone living in a small apartment with a minimum wage job and think they had met their peak in life. Instead they will assume that like them the person still hopes to achieve grandeur. This way of thinking can be fine, as long as there is a logical basis for the desire to reach these heights.

    Harsh as it may sound, the truth is that most people will never achieve greatness. They will not be astronauts or movie stars or find the cure for cancer. They will live an average life. They will have good times and bad times. They will be normal. Anyone could succeed in the ways chosen by our society, but not everyone will. And I feel we should embrace this. We should stop pressuring people into certain ways of living. Instead, the ideal would be for them to stick to their strengths and live based off of them. We would still retain the talents of those who would have prospered, but at the same time lose the Willy Lomans who seek a future that has no correlation to their own talents.

    Unfortunately, this will never happen as it would mean treating happiness in mediocrity as just as much of an achievement as a career in astrophysics. We as humans were not made to think this way. We desire competition. Nonetheless, in his small world, Prufrock has realized the arbitrary scale that we often measure ourselves on. Being the hero is no longer necessary for him. He is shy, and does not need to lead the action.

    The background is where Prufrock can shine.

  3. “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    […]
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me.

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    When the wind blows the water white and black.
    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

    Indeed we are not all princes. The average human being is not so grandiose as everyone in movies and books are. Frankly, we are boring. Cathartic moments are few and far between. Our daily lives are generally routine, but comfortable, this is our perception of reality.

    There is something about travel which seems to make us sensitive. When nothing is familiar, we are filled with an extreme curiosity to explore and wonder. One specific location I visited in Iceland over spring break gave me a moment of complete and utter contentness, combined with extremely contemplative thoughts. On the south shore, near the town of Vík í Mýrdal, massive black cliffs tower over black sand beaches facing the North Atlantic. The famed Reynisdrangar, basalt sea stacks said to have been a three-masted ship brought to its location by trolls provide towering volcanic relief from a 200 degree horizon of ocean. The promontory arch of Dyrhólaey defies gravity and accepts the torrent of waves with passivity. I got to thinking, having my sense of geography, that this was a very curious position to be occupying on earth. Literally, if I stared straight south, toward the Atlantic, and kept looking further, there would be nothing. From this point, if I were to get on a little boat and just head due south I would never touch land until I reached Antarctica. Having done the math on this later, this is approximately a 15500km trip. Nearly 10000 miles – of nothing. Just water. You bump into no continent on the way, not even a tiny island. It’s just a clear path of nothing. To spite this concept, a seal surfaced for a moment, and then disappeared. I tried to wait him out and spot him again, but he was gone.

    As I became more invested in the ocean, and distracted from the cliffs and all the little caves under it, I became filled with a sense of smallness. The ocean is massive. It is inhospitable. The wind comes off of it with enough power to knock down a 6 year old. The waves lap the black sand with indifference, some waves with more greed than others. For some reason, it’s peaceful. This is how we were meant to live. The controlled environment of homes and schools and offices is invariable, stagnant, dry and unfeeling. Nature can be felt, especially in this setting. In our homes, we live sterilized lives, free from the reality of nature.

    Being from the prairies of northern Alberta, it seemed that nature was misbehaving in this setting. The endless expanse of water, the strange species of birds nesting in the cliffs. The geology: highly influenced by volcanic activity in unfamiliar patterns. The wind, though strong was not unwelcome. If you wanted to talk, you had to shout, though such an activity seemed inappropriate in the face of all of this.

    When I arrived home again and the snow melted off, I went swan spotting with my biologist and bird enthusiast dad. I began to notice just how beautiful a morning in the peace country can be. Typically our landscape seemed more of the same to me, but now seemed to possess its own kind of wonder amongst a glowing sunrise and fog to capture the glow. We miss things around us that we see every day, simply because we see them every day.

    The thing is that reality appears to be what is always present around us (though we often block most of that from view), but when you go to an other-worldly place like Iceland, or maybe even just the Rockies, you contemplate not just how small your own reality is but how many others there can be.

    Just as the mermaid may not sing to J. Alfred Prufrock, the seal did not bark for me, but the waves kept crashing.

  4. “Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?”

    Staring at these two lines gives me goose-bumps.
    No.
    It’s more than that.
    These two lines exemplify the majority of thoughts I have conjured in my apprehensive mind over the past year. They give me more than a slight shiver. These words from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock shake my very being. In these final weeks of high school it’s just about time to open a whole new book in the life of Mathew Gorman. But what will that book be about? It’s a question I’ve pondered countless times.

    I have always wanted to do something extraordinary. But I found it quite a difficult thing to break away from everyone’s expectations and venture down the rough and less traveled path. The path that many have tumbled down and were left broken upon reaching the end. When I thought about my dreams juxtaposed against the ensnarement of expectations it seemed I was left with no choice. Choosing the safe path just seemed logical. After finalizing my enrolment in college last week and feeling pretty good about myself, in swoops T.S. Eliot forcing me to look at my empty book once again. There are so many pages to be written but I now fear the words I have planned to fill them will not be able to captivate any reader. Or myself. Nothing but boring, bland words that could never leave anyone wanting to find out what happens next. What a terrible book that would be. Honestly, I was content with the sentences I’ve had planned for quite some time. But now I feel that being content just isn’t good enough.

    “Do I dare,” he challenges me. Do I dare do something spectacular? Do I dare break away from what I am expected to do? “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Of course I want to shock the world. But what kind of paragraph would get me started on an epic Earth-shaking adventure? This is where I currently find myself stuck. And it sure is not a fun place to be.

    But why not use my uncertainty as motivation. My skin will itch until I figure out what words to begin my epic adventure novel. As long as I know I will not be content with repetitious routine I will continually search for a route that will bring me incredible joy filled with stories worth telling. Maybe the search to find the adventure will be an adventure in itself. Maybe the story begins with Mathew Gorman deciding where to begin the story.

    “Once upon a time there lived a boy filled with utter uncertainty and a persistent passion to do something extraordinary…” It’s not bad. Actually I kind of like it.

    Even though I do not necessarily know what direction I want to travel, for now I will continue to walk the way I have been pointed. I know the beginning of my book will be filled with uncertainty but I have the end goal of changing the world set in stone. Now I just have to figure out what happens in between.

    J. Alfred Prufrock may have been uncertain of his capability to disturb the universe asking himself, “Do I dare”. But changing the world for the better is something I will strive to accomplish. I do dare.

    Challenge accepted.

  5. “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in
    upon a platter,
    I am no prophet- and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.
    (…)
    Would it have been worth while
    (…)
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say :’That is not what I meant at all.
    That is not it, at all.'”

    Inadequacy: The state of one’s mind in which they perceive themselves as possessing a lack of quality or quantity to achieve a goal.

    Prufrock redefines this meaning.

    Prufrock’s sense of self, sense of confidence in himself is non-existent. He does not view himself as only inadequate to participate in matters of expressing opinion, he views himself as lacking the ability to participate in life itself. Prufrock has convictions, opinions and substance. There is a problem however, and that is that he does not see the value in extending these convictions and opinions towards another, in fear of his views being repressed or un-reciprocated. He dwells in attempted validation for his lack of action, constantly asking if he himself is worthy of life’s time. Although he prays for motivation and initiative, although a matter of great importance may arise and go against every nuance of truth inherent to Prufrock (head being upon a platter), he abstains. He would rather remain a bystander than act upon the opportunity to share his opinion in fear of un-reciprocation. Therefore, when faced with Death himself, one could say that he might snicker at the ill-initiative and the lack of life-cultivation of all people resembling Prufrock.

    Is it worth it? To share or express an opinion in this world, to Prufrock, is void of significance. All life ends in death, so why interfere when so many others contribute already?

    Progress in Prufrock’s world involves validation. Validation for ones efforts and contributions to life. Prufrock makes a case against this. He argues that there exists a high probability of those same people to impose their views upon your progress, rendering that progress null. Therefore, it is more rational to abstain from the effort of progression, so as not to expend time at the expense of failure.

    Do you agree?

    When odds seem insurmountable against your endeavors, is it easier to relinquish the goal and dwell in shame? Of course. We see it everyday. The child who cannot catch that football in training, the man who chides himself over his ‘inability’ to woo the temptress, the individual that allows judgment by another to dictate their livelihoods. We have all felt inadequate at times. Prufrock was incorrect especially on one conclusion however; he does not stir in inadequacy by himself. As a man of probability, he fails to acknowledge that there is a high chance that others out there are just like him, all dwelling in misery, without the will to extract the juice from the fruit we call life. He also fails to acknowledge the positives that comes from perseverance, the foil of desistance. He fails to see those that released their chains that bounded them from individuality, and progress through life regardless of other’s perceptions.

    Prufrock’s definition of inadequacy, and his application thereof, becomes inconsistent with reality, if one rouses the ability to see past judgment. By not adhering to Prufrock’s priciples of inadequacy, one could say that the “eternal Footman” would not be snickering.

  6. “And I have known the eyes already, known them all-the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase. And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, then how should I begin to spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?”

    We often feel as though we are being scrutinized by society, some of us more than others. We let the judgments of our peers control our behavior and impact our self-esteem. That’s exactly what I feel…right now. I don’t want to blog, I hate blogging. I hate that anyone could see this post and make an endless amount of negative assumptions about me. I can identify with this author because every time I sit down to post on this blog I too wonder “How should I begin?” The author’s life has been spent being judged by the outside world to the point where he can recognize instantly through an individual’s eyes what they think of him. Their gaze causes him to sink further and further into the stereotypes placed on him by those around him. For example, if a teen is constantly considered a troublemaker or a delinquent because of the way they dress and present themselves, it is going to have an effect on their self-image. They could be a perfectly decent person, but because of the negative label attached to them, they will begin to embrace that label as part of their identity.

    The idea of being “pinned and wriggling on the wall” makes me think of a butterfly being stabbed by some crazed insect collector in hopes of learning everything about that particular species. Here was a butterfly, minding its own business when suddenly SPLAT! Some four-eyes know it all comes along and takes away any sense of security it may have previously had. Every action, pattern, behavior, reaction is now being examined and reexamined by someone who should have just left well enough alone in the first place. How often does this happen in real life? People are discovered for who they really are, are thrust into the spotlight, and are made a spectacle of, simply because they are different. Sure, in some cases this exposure of the truth regarding people’s private lives could be considered a public service (think of the Senate scandal and a certain mayor of Toronto) But what about those who are not in high power positions in society? Should they too be forced to defend their actions on the world stage? As an example, although there is more acceptance today than in the past, members of the gay community are still met with oppression and questions from curious (and likely annoying) people. We’re all human. Leave any butterfly stabbing devices at home, and go out in to the world as a tolerant respectful individual. How should you begin? Begin by being open-minded, optimistic, and never presume to formulate anyone.

  7. “And would it have been worth it, after all,
    After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
    Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
    Would it have been worth while,
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it toward some overwhelming question”

    How can you leave your mark? We know few names of those who lived 1000 years ago. In 1000 years time, none of us will be remembered either. By the standards of human civilization, although things you do in your life may leave a faint mark in the distant future, the past will always end up buried beneath in darkness, never to be retrieved again.

    Beyond the human civilization is the entire rest of the Universe. Although fictitious, Douglas Adams’ demonstration of the insignificance of Earth in the grande scheme of things is quite compelling. When the ultimate reference book – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – is asked to make an inquiry of planet earth, the only entry found reads “Earth: Mostly harmless”

    The speaker of this poem seems to have a parallel viewpoint on existence – or at least has thoughts about it. Specifically in these lines, the speaker discusses the everyday things on insignificance, but then asks the question: Would it have been worth while do do something extraordinary with my life? Short answer? no.

    Alexander the Great now rests in the same place that Alexander the Not-So-Great (that homeless man who died last winter) rests: Underground, with their consciousness’s in nothingness. Keep in mind that this is not definitive, it is simply the theory that the speaker is contemplating.
    Sure people pay attention to the present – but what’s easier than that? However they forget easily. And if the observers of the Universe are also only invested in examining the present, then what is so special about watching earthlings threatening to blow each other up?

    The speaker addresses the point of “rol[ing] [the Universe] toward some overwhelming question”

    Douglas Adams once again pulls through with a fantastic thought.
    “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

    What if the Universe really is pointless? (or it’s point is so obscure that it may as well be pointless) Well then, that would mean that the creation of the conscious beings of the Universe whom we seek validation from and hope to make an impact on (remember, we don’t make an impact – we make more of a slight nudge commonly mistaken for a brief cross breeze) is just as pointless and insignificant as you, me, Gandhi, that guy from work who’s name you always forget, Jesus or even Todd from grade school.

    While I’m at it, the question must be answered – if nothing matters then why would I spend my time writing some comment on a blog for school? Well, in 1000 years if I had been out mass murdering churchgoing school children or if I had been talking to a therapist about my sociopathic tendencies, who would care?

    Well perhaps like the speaker of this poem and everyone else on the planet, I too am trying to conform into the mindset that there is meaning in life, and schoolwork is simply helping me go through the motions to blind myself from how things really are.

  8. And would it have been worth it, after all,
    After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
    Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
    Would it have been worth the while
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
    To say “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”-
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
    That is not it, at all.”

    There is not a single person on the face of this planet that enjoys being disappointed. People most often become saddened and upset when they are disappointed; and in more sever cases may become depressed or even suicidal. How we go about circumnavigating disappointment depends on almost completely on who the person is. Some people go about expecting absolutely nothing from others, and in doing so believe that they are unable to be hurt because they believe that if no one is there to help, no one is there to hurt. Some get cold feet and either become indecisive, or they run before they can be hurt. Some try to stand in the face of disappointment, knowing that whether or not they succeed there will not be that little voice in the back of their mind chipping away at their sanity saying:

    “What if?”

    What if I had asked her? What if I turned around and walked away? What if I did all my homework? What if I tried something new? What if I started up an ice cream parlour with 581 unique flavours ice cream, but everyone only ever bought vanilla? You will never know an answer to a question that hasn’t yet been asked. Though in our human arrogance we willingly force ourselves to believe that we will know the answers to all of the questions that haven’t even begun to take root within the frailty of consciousness. The truth is that we – more often than not – only see the things that we want to see, not what is staring so obviously starring us down. If you knew that you were going to fail an important test, or strike out with a girl, would you even try?

    It is easier to break a mind than it is to break a bone. The more confident a person appears to be, the more pieces their mind will shatter into when disappointment sets in. Someone with no confidence cannot break down so easily, as their mind is already broken and if allowed to break down even more would crumble into dust. Once a mind becomes broken in this way, no amount of time can heal it completely, there are always fine cracks and pieces that when chipped away fell between the cracks of the floorboards. Only the help of those few that truly care can fill the cracks of a shattered consciousness.

  9. “I have seen the moment of my greatest flicker”

    So lets talk about grad. Everyone is happy, excited, proud and all while dressing up fancy. Mat looked matnificent, Rueben looked Bjonkers, and Chase looked well um…Stevens I guess…(there’s no good pun). Anyways, i know we were all like “OMG this is the best day ever” and I wasn’t to sure how to take that. What if grad was the best moment in my life, and is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    It’s a terrifying thought that there is one moment in our lives that we will one day look back at and say “that’s my greatest moment”. It’s almost a curse actually, to have to single out one moment, one feeling, or one point in your life that is superior to the others.

    When being in a situation that, just to be cheesy for all you gals out there, takes your breath away, it can be complicated to rank the moment while being caught up in it. If you were to believe that this moment you’re in is the best moment you have ever had, it can be considered as both amazing and terrible. Amazing because you are proud of what you have done, but when considering the moment you are in is the best one you have ever had, is actually almost more depressing than uplifting. Saying it’s the best means everything leading up to this point isn’t as amazing. Now when you look back at your life it isn’t as amazing as you once previously thought. The greatest moment can actually devalue other memories that were once “‘the greatest” in your mind.

    So lets say you’re in this amazing moment you consider to be the best. By giving the moment this prestigious title you assume it will remain the greatest moment in your life. When in these situations we always spend, even for as little as a second, wondering what will be the moment in the hopefully near future that will top this. However, what if the moment you consider to be the best, actually is? What if there is no better moment? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well i think it’s a good thing that someone can consider a moment to be the best, but its also sad because that person doesn’t actually know in the long run if that moment will hold up or not. I think everyone secretly doesn’t want their greatest moment to hold up, because they hope for something better. What if better never comes? Therefore, should a person undervalue a moment in hopes of a better moment later on, or overvalue a moment fearing it will be your greatest? It’s literally impossible to perfectly judge how valuable a moment you are currently in will be when you look back at your entire life. It’s the human nature to under and over value moments, but the people who are lucky enough to properly judge a moments significance are the happiest.

    T.S. Eliot describes the “greatest moment” as a flicker. Honestly moments are sadly just a flicker in life, just a memory of what we used to consider as perfection. Eliot relates the greatest moment in a persons life to being in love. When someone is looking back on a lifetime of heartbreak, mistakes, and confusion, love isn’t about the flickers, it.s about the one spark that is so bright that it makes the other flickers completely insignificant. Sure in the crazy adventure of young adulthood its easy to “fall in love”, but love is when you know exactly how to cherish and value your moments with that person, and not think twice about it. Saying ” It’s impossible to say just what i mean”, Eliot relates a moment and love in the sense that the perfect moment as well as perfect love is indescribably perfect. The feeling of knowing your in love simply because of every reason imaginable is also how Eliot judges perfect moments. When there is no possible way to explain why, that’s how to know if you have found your greatest moment. Eliot shows that no matter how much you plan your life, try and make life better by putting on a mask, or even trying to make proper decisions, the only way to know how to decide a greatest moment is by having unconditional love for who your sharing it with, or love what you’re doing to the point where you truly believe there is nothing better.

  10. “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?”-T.S. Elliot

    This quote speaks to me a lot at this point in my life. As a young woman who is just embarking into adulthood I have felt the pressures that are put upon young people to either blend in with the social norms or to be completley and utterly unique. I also know for a fact that just attempting to choose what college or university to go to is amazingly difficult. Should I stay local or plant my feet in new soil? It’s challenging to find yourself in this big, diverse, and wonderful world we live in.
    I understand exactly what Elliot is saying and what he is not directly saying when he talks about branching out and trying new things. The fact that he chose to use the words, “shall I” and “do I dare” is almost as if at first he was open to the idea of change but then he suddenly got the idea that it was too risky. Parting his hair differently would be a subtle change so if he didn’t like it he could easily change it back, but if he ate a peach and didn’t like it he would be left with the taste in his mouth. I believe that Elliot missed out on a lot of things in life that he wanted to do but couldn’t work up the courage to do it. He was afraid of making mistakes and being judged even though we have to do those things in order work on ourselves. Human beings are vulnerable to making mistakes and doing things that we know could end badly, but we also know that these are the things that keep us alive.

  11. ‘For I have known them all:
    Have known the evenings,mornings,afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room’

    (lines 49-53)

    To me this stanza has an air of repetition, dullness and boredom. If this stanza were a colour it would be a murky dishwater grey. Thats how i picture Prufrock traveling through his life, on backdrops of grey, he’s invisible, he’s there seeing everything and everyone. No one acknowledges his presence. He’s the average middle aged man we’ve all seen and ignored. He is a part of society, but is not a face that stands out, he is absorbed in the masses of people. This quote radiates a sense of purposelessness or a feeling of gloominess. Prufrock appears to have come to the conclusion that he has seen everyone, his experiences are the same, and that his life is repetitions of meaningless activities.

    At some point in everyone’s life they are going to ask themselves ‘what am I doing this for anyways?’ and everyone will feel like they’re wasted away, counting their minutes in invisible solitude. It’s like being a part of society but not fully participating in it. Everyone will come to the conclusion that they have seen enough of the world to determine their insignificance. That is why I believe you should not measure your life with coffee spoons and sit on the outskirts of society. Having a neutrality for feelings of uselessness and isolation should grow in the hearts of people.

    How do you measure your life? This question is terrifying and overwhelming because the minute you start measuring time, the faster it flies by. Time slips right through your fingers, and everything you ever wanted to accomplish in life floods your brain along with questioning the meaning of everything you’ve ever done.So will you be a participant in your life? Will you sit on the sidelines watching the action, being there but not really there, just like Prufrock? You don’t have to be doing anything extraordinary to enjoy your time, and to everyone certain activities hold differing importance. Will you spend your time unhappy, but unwilling to change your days to suit who you are? Or will you measure you days in smiles, in late night conversations with loved ones, in snippets of memories ordinary or extraordinary? Or will you count your life by moments of discontent and watch as your dreams turn grey?

  12. “I am no prophet_and there is no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.”

    I recently read a book by John Green titled “The Fault in our Stars” and this book completely changed my perspective on life. In the book two terminally ill cancer patients manage to find love, true love, in the midst of great adversity. There is a part of the book when the members of a cancer support group are asked to share their fears out loud, and Augustus answers without hesitation. He fears oblivion, Augustus’ view at the beginning is similar to Prufrock’s, they fear being insignificant, and the possibility that their lives are meaningless. Peder said in his response that our own lives and the actions that we take may not be recognized in a thousand years, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are pointless. We can recognize that as a species, we are minuscule compared to the vast expanse of the universe, but when you consider the lives of our families and friends, our own action or inaction can affect the rest of their life.
    The first part of fearing oblivion has to do with legacy, and the lack of of leaving one. Both Augustus and Prufrock are victims of their own self-consciousness, along with many others. Augustus feared that he wouldn’t be remembered which lead to grand gestures and acts of passion, winning over the heart of Hazel and making their last days together worth while. Prufrock feared that he would be remembered for something that he wasn’t proud of, or more accurately what other people weren’t proud of because he was so self conscious, this lead to procrastination, Prufrock was so over-contemplative to the point of inaction. Fear is a powerful motivator, but without bravery can turn you into a Prufrock, Augustus feared oblivion, but he was brave enough to face it head on and make the most out of the time he had with Hazel.
    The other side of fearing oblivion is fearing death, you look at life differently when your days are numbered, healthy people tend to feel invincible, or at least durable, like somehow we are guaranteed to have long happy lives that will eventually resemble our “dream life”, however Hazel and Augustus (the cancer patients in the book) knew that they didn’t have an eventually, which made every moment together significant, not to people a thousand years from now, but important to each other, infinitely important in their fractionally small moment of history. I think that’s how more people should live life, making the most out of every moment instead of fearing the inevitability of death, we all know that one day our life will cease to exist, its just a matter of how long you get for your eventually.
    Both the Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Fault in our Stars deal with the idea of “the end” like characters in a story they are concerned with questions like “what is going to come of me when I’m gone?”, “when will that moment be?”, and “what legacy can I leave?” The methods that people go to answer these questions can differ as I’ve talked about including procrastination, and precision pursuit methods to cope with the inevitable “end”. Hazel has this phrase that she says throughout the book, she says life, is a side effect of dying, she is talking about the inevitability of death, that everything eventually leads up to the end, she is not using this phrase in a negative light, but rather to wake people up and tell them to make sure that they are living each moment to the fullest.
    One of my favorite lines from the book is when Hazel is reading her fake eulogy to Augustus, it goes: “Some infinities are bigger than others… You gave me a forever within the numbered days” that is how I believe we should live, instead of fearing the snickering Footman, or the insignificance of our lives in comparison to the universe, we need to embrace our own personal infinities and live life not for the sake of a picture in a history book, but for ourselves and those we love. Prufrock made the mistake of being discouraged by his insignificance and afraid of oblivion, what he didn’t know is that significance is relative and oblivion is inevitable, we are here to be significant to those who need us, because everything else eventually fades to oblivion.

  13. “I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.
    […]
    To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” –
    If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
    That is not it, at all.””

    I believe these two quotes work together in unison as one amazing quote because of how well they play off each other. The first half of the quote deals with the fear humans have of the inevitable. The eternal Footman can be interpreted as a symbol of Death; that Death will eventually come and take your coat from you and snicker at the fact that you must now get comfortable with dying. It’s a rather silly thing to be afraid of when you think about it because dying is the only real thing in life you are guaranteed of when you’re born.

    But I don’t believe Prufrock is so much afraid of dying, as he is afraid of being forgotten. It’s hard for humans to not see their “greatness flicker,” especially as a teen. Teens are so focused on discovering what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they have only lived less than a quarter of it. I often feel my greatness flicker not in the sense that I have already achieved a greatness that I do not want to slip away, but more so in the sense that I will not be able to achieve any sort of greatness. Therefore the idea and dream of someday being great, slips through my fingers when I think about where I am in life and where I want to go. And I think that has a lot to do with the pressures put on teens to know what they want to do with their lives at such a young age. This pressure then makes it hard for people, not even just teens, to believe that their dreams are graspable.

    Now this is where the second half of my chosen quote comes into play. It has this haunting effect that explains that after a person dies, they may feel unaccomplished in their lives. I think this is another fear natural to human beings. Most of us fear that we will not be remembered, or that our legacy will not be large enough, or that we will be remembered for the wrong thing. That your legacy will not be “what [you] meant at all.”

    Blah. Blah. Blah.

    It’s all the same for everyone. We fear the inevitability of our deaths and the oblivion of it all being meaningless. So if we all have these exact same fears, what’s the point? What leads us all to believe that our lives are more significant than another person’s? What makes us bother trying to leave a loud enough legacy for over 7 billion people to hear?

    Now of course we want to be remembered in order to impact future generations. Hell, without this natural obsession, our species would not have evolved to the heights that we are at today. It’s what has changed the way we look at the universe and sciences.

    So I guess what I’m really trying to get at here is that people should be less focused on what they leave behind for people to remember them by, and be more concerned with how they present their legacy. Because God forbid the eternal Footman come for you and you must shout down at the world “That is not what I meant at all. This is not it, at all.”

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