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J. Alfred Prufrock is the protagonist of Eliot’s famous poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. He is a middle-aged fop, a neurotic and tragic figure who is unable to take a decision about making the proposal of marriage to the lady he loves. Let us now consider some of the important traits of his character. 

Prufrock is an aging romantic fellow who dresses smartly, smiles to the ladies but is unable to express his inner mind. His excuse for postponing the making of the love proposal arises from neurosis and from his fear of rejection. He is conscious of his old age and besides, there is “a bald spot in the middle” of his head. His hair is also growing thin. His hands and legs are also thin. He is afraid of people's criticism, “But how his arms and legs are thin!” For this reason, he is in a dilemma whether he will propose to his lady or not. 

Prufrock may be regarded as a tragic character. His tragedy lies in the fact that he is unable to commit himself to any faith that would sustain him. Prufrock’s timidity is his tragic flaw. His inability to establish a satisfying love-relationship torments him. 

Prufrock shows a Hamlet-like temperament, which is central to Shakespeare’s great tragedy. In Hamlet we find that the hero suffers intensely because of his over-consciousness. His philosophical speculations paralyse his will to act and so he suffers from procrastination. The desire of the heart failing to find fulfilment ip action, begins to feed upon itself, and the emotional impulse to act of to come to a decision is repressed by over-scrupulousness. The result is emotional frustration, and self-dissection or self-deprecation. If the case of Prufrock the problem is complicated by the fact that he is  smart but middle-aged man who is naturally more timid in love’ making than a hot-blooded youth. 

Prufrock is a man of dual personality. He suffers from both mental and physical weakness. He is old and impotent. But at the same time he has no power to reach a decision whether he should propose to his sweetheart or not. He is timid and indecisive. He represents a split consciousness. In fact he has two selves — romantic and realist. His heart is his romantic self and his head is the realist self. His romantic self persuades him to go to his beloved and propose to her. But his realist self advises him not to hurry. This is actually the cause of his indecision in making a proposal to his ladylove. 

Prufrock is a daydreamer, romantic fellow who often has visions of beauty. Unable to face realities, he longs to escape from life to some world of romance and beauty. His romantic inner-self has always been submerged by the actualities of life. So he is utterly helpless; he wants to escape but cannot.

Sketch the character of J. Alfred Prufrock


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