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,
Sweeney.
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