Action And Inaction In Eliots Prufrock English Literature Essay Free Essay
The coming of the twentieth century was greeted by the First and Second World Wars that unveiled adult male in all its ferociousness and savageness. It witnessed the loss of adult male ‘s moral consciousness ; loss of belief in faith and spiritual values. The horrors and the panics of war stripped world from all its semblances of civilisation and from all its political orientations of life. Gripped with an overpowering sense of loss, desperation and pessimism at that place was a demand to come up with new doctrines and political orientations in order to make some apprehension of the significance of life. It was therefore that Existentialism as a philosophical motion emerged. It focused on the predicament of the single adult male ‘compelled to presume ultimate duty for his Acts of the Apostless of free will ; without any certain cognition of what is right or incorrect. ‘ Out of this philosophical idea arose Absurdism that focused upon the nonsense and the unreason of the universe and of adult male ‘s being within it.
T.S Eliot ‘s verse form, ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock ‘ and Albert Camus ‘s novel, ‘The Outsider ‘ can be seen as a merchandise of these philosophical motions. The two literary plants focus on the being of adult male and his topographic point in the meaningless universe. This paper attempts to analyse the mind of the two supporter characters: Prufrock in Eliot ‘s verse form, and Meursault in Camus ‘s novel, as they observe the absurdness of life around them. It will research the consciousness of these two characters as they act or fail to move in order to convey about some alteration or realisation among the people of their clip.
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T.S Eliot ‘s verse form, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ‘ , opens with an aura of complete stasis. His imagination of a ‘patient etherized upon a tabular array ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) denotes the complete inactiveness of adult male, who is numbed to the nucleus and suffers from an emotional and rational palsy. The ‘saw-dust eating houses ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) besides denote the moral and rational decay of world who continue to populate in a universe where everything is ephemeral like proverb dust. However, it is non simply the streets and the hotels that display the grotesque and hapless status of world. Rather it is the full ambiance which is impregnated with religious pollution and a sense of futility and laziness.
Furthermore, Eliot goes on to foreground the superficiality of the society, when he criticizes the pretentious attitude of the adult females as he says ‘In the room the adult females come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) . He points out that human value, human life and human relationships have all lost their value in this universe. Man is in fact populating a twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours existence without recognizing the arrant nonsense of his life and the void in which he dwells.
Camus excessively creates a similar ambiance in his novel, ‘The Outsider ‘ . There, Camus creates his supporter, Meursault, as one who lives a inactive being, detached from the occurrences of the universe. The fresh beginning with the decease of his female parent unveils the lip service of the society who put up a convincing pretence of heartache for the loss of his female parent. It is Meursault, who observes that ‘this dead organic structure, lying at that place among them, did n’t intend anything to them. ‘ ( Camus, 1941 ) However as Camus points out, the difference between Meursault and the remainder of the universe, lies in the fact that Meursault refuses to ‘play the game ‘ ( 1941 ) . While Meursault notes the absurd pretence of heartache displayed by the people around him, his mistake lies in the fact that he fails to demo any emotion towards his loss and that he does non portray himself as anything or anyone other than what he truly is. His observations of the absurdness of life around him, is something that the reader takes immediate note of, but Meursault remains unconscious of for some portion of the novel.
His unconsciousness is therefore a contrast to the consciousness of Prufrock who is cognizant of non merely the absurdness around him, but besides the absurdness within him. Meursault in his withdrawal is separated from being a portion of the absurdness of the universe, while Prufrock realizes that he is himself a portion of the whole in this absurdness of life. He excessively, along with the infinite members of society, is caught up in making semblances and dissembling his true individuality ; fixing ‘a face to run into the ( other ) faces ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) . It is this that creates the struggle of action and inactivity in Prufrock. Bing a portion of the whole and separated from the whole at the same clip, in his consciousness, leads to the atomization of Prufrock ‘s character. He experiences a divide within him ; an internal quandary between staying inactive or stolid in the universe and among the nescient society of the universe. Desirous of deriving a socially acceptable function, Prufrock is invariably afraid of ask foring the disapproval and derision of society. He fears that they will measure his emotional and psychological weaknesss, and roast his deplorable status:
‘And I have known the eyes already, known them all-
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 )
These ‘eyes ‘ of the others, strip Prufrock of an single personality and individuality, In order to stay a portion of society, he prefers to blind himself to his ‘momentary ‘ religious waking ups and to therefore stay inactive in conveying about any alteration in the absurd universe.
In contrast to Prufrock ‘s atomization, is Camus character Meursault of ‘The Outsider ‘ . Meursault, a ‘stranger ‘ and an ‘outsider ‘ : detached and alienated from the universe from the really beginning of the novel, does non undergo any quandary or split in his character. While he remains inactive and unconscious of the absurdness of the universe for most portion of the novel, he is finally aroused after he commits slaying and is subjected to a tribunal test. Having murdered an Arab adult male, Meursault realizes that he had ‘destroyed the balance of the twenty-four hours ‘ and knocked ‘at the door of sadness. ‘ ( Camus, 1941 ) Life as he had one time lived it changes from here on. However, aware of his guilt in perpetrating slaying, what rouses Meursault is non merely the consciousness of this guilt but so besides the absurdness of confronting a test. While he perceives his instance as ‘simple adequate ‘ ( Camus, 1941 ) with his guilt obvious, the system of jurisprudence and order however require him to name a attorney, and to confront a test.
It is therefore, the test that pursues, that farther Rouss Meursault ‘s consciousness of the absurdness of the universe, when he is questioned more about his deficiency of feelings towards his female parent ‘s decease and less about his act of perpetrating slaying. Furthermore, Meursault ‘s attorney suggests that he tamper with the existent narrative of perpetrating slaying in order to get away his decease sentence. In this, his attorney depicts the common mind of every adult male who travels through life through prevarication and pretence. Camus writes in the Afterword, ‘Lying is non merely stating what is n’t true. It is besides in fact particularly stating more than is true and, in the instance of the human bosom, stating more than one feels. We all do it, everyday, to do life simpler. ‘ ( 1941 ) He therefore besides states, that it is this refusal to lie that separates Meursault from the universe.
Meursault, unhampered by the oculus of society, unlike Prufrock is determined non to lie and in this determination he parallels Albert Camus definition of the Rebel. Camus explains in his essay, ‘The Rebel ‘ that: ‘In every act of rebellion, the Rebel at the same time experiences a feeling of repugnance at the violation of his rights and a complete and self-generated trueness to certain facets of himself. Therefore he implicitly brings into play a criterion of values so far from being gratuitous that he is prepared to back up it no affair what the hazards. ‘ ( 1956, p. 10 ) Meursault therefore, in standing up for his beliefs and in declining to lie in fact Rebels against the system of the universe. In protecting his values, he asserts his separation from the absurd universe. In order to asseverate his beliefs, Meursault is prepared to put on the line the effects which in this instance is his decease sentence. Sprintzen writes about Meursault ‘s rebellion, saying that his ‘revolt is non merely the metaphysical rejection of societal lip service, but besides the personal catharsis of the enticement to play by the rules-even to be the dandy-and the re-afi¬?rmation of the person ‘s right, experienced by Camus about as a characterological responsibility, to be witness in one ‘s actions to the truth of one ‘s experience. ‘ ( 2001, 125 )
Meursault through this rebellion does non populate up to Camus criterions of the absurd adult male as explained in his essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ . Camus states that the absurd adult male must be witting of the absurdness of the universe but must non seek to set an terminal to his life. Rather he must accept it and populate on. However, at the same clip, Camus does turn to the construct of ‘conquest ‘ in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus ‘ . He writes: ‘There ever comes a clip when 1 must take between contemplation and action. ‘ ( 1955, p. 56 ) While he prefers action, he besides goes on to state: ‘Conquerors know that action is in itself useless. There is but one utile action, that of refashioning adult male and the Earth. I shall ne’er refashion work forces. But one must make ‘as if. ” ( 1955, p. 56 ) It is this precisely that characterizes Meursault ‘s rebellion and determination to move. In standing up against the absurdness of the universe, Meursault asserts his individualism. Though he acknowledges the indifference of the universe, yet his action can be seen to hold an ageless impact for he remains firm and inexorable. The fresh terminals with Meursault ‘s statement: ‘aˆ¦my last want was that there should be a crowd of witnesss at my executing and that they should recognize me with calls of hatred. ‘ ( Camus, 1941 )
Therefore, Meursault, embraces the indifference of the universe, and in this embracing he asserts his individualism and establishes himself as a character who is at one with himself, unwavered by the influence of society. In his action and in his rebellion he rises far above society and societal criterions in the absurd universe. David Sprintzen writes: ‘A motivation, no affair how malevolent, bespeaks an apprehensible person. A motivated act is an apprehensible act ; its universe, a familiar universe. To take a firm stand upon there being a motive-to insist so unselfconsciously that the possibility that there might non be one does non even arise-while, at the same clip, qualifying that motor as the wilful rejection of humane esthesias, here genuinely is the “ best of all possible universes. ” Presented with a felon who is metaphysically comprehendible but morally condemnable, society may, at one and the same clip, reafi¬?rm its cosmic play and purge itself momently of any pent-up and forbidden dispositions that threaten to shatter it. ‘
Meursault ‘s rebellion is therefore in blunt contrast to Prufrock ‘s pick to stay inactive and inactive. He allows himself to be intimidated by the oculus of society. Afraid of being misinterpreted and being ousted from society, Prufrock chooses to play safe and to go on to populate on. However, in his failure to move, Prufrock begins to indulge in excuse. He states:
‘I should hold been a brace of ragged claws
Scurrying across the floors of soundless seas. ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 )
This degenerated and discorporate image of a crab, that Prufrock desires to be, non merely emphasizes upon the decomposition of Prufrock, the character himself, but besides points toward his desire to shrive himself of all duties. Bing lacerate between taking to model himself harmonizing to the society or conveying the minute of oppugning ‘to its crisis ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) , he desires to simply go a portion of the soundless sea, with no defined individuality and no duties to populate up to. He besides goes on to farther justify himself saying:
‘No! I am no Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be ;
Am an attendant Godhead, one that will make
To swell a advancement, get down a scene or two ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 )
A critic by the name of Carol T. Christ writes in an article, that J Alfred Prufrock ‘laments his loss while he constructs a fiction of the ego that at one time rationalizes his failure and consoles him for itaˆ¦ . The truth and humor of his societal sarcasm and the resonance of his plaint for his failure likewise afford him defenses against the universe he has refused to come in. ‘ ( 1984, p. 220-221 ) However, in this conflict of excuse with himself, Prufrock simply establishes his disconnected character. The verse form, in contrast with Camus ‘s novel, reaches no decision. It begins with images that depict a sense of stasis, inactiveness and inactivity. While ab initio Eliot depicts the ambiance of inactiveness in Prufrock ‘s external milieus, it is subsequently internalized in Prufrock through his images of himself as a ‘pair of ragged claws ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) and as a mere ‘attendant Godhead ‘ ( Eliot, 1917 ) . Prufrock therefore allows this inactiveness to rule him and to desensitise him of his consciousness of the absurdness of the universe.
Therefore, in this struggle between action and inactivity, Meursault rises above Prufrock. Unhindered and untainted by the influence of society, he is able to stand up for his beliefs and go forth his grade in the universe. However, Prufrock in his passiveness, simply plunges deeper into the absurd universe. The contrast between these two supporters thereby vividly depicts the struggle between action and inactivity. Prufrock, intimidated by society chooses to stay inactive and therefore the atomization of his character becomes apparent. Meursault, holding assurance in himself and in his determinations, emerges as a character who is at one with himself, and thereby able to asseverate his individualism.