Decadence and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a poem that exemplifies the values of Victorian age Decadence. Decadence was essentially the uprooting of those Victorian values with an amoral attitude that focused on more of the sexual things that were not talked about at the time. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” embodies this because of the multitude of different sexual references and Elliot alluding to sex in many different ways. For example, Eliot writes, ” And when I am formulates, sprawling on a pin,when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall/ then how should I begin to spit out all of the butt-ends of my days and ways?” (ll. 58-59).This line to me, puts emphasis on sexual dominance of the main character over all of his lovers. This quote also indicates that the main character’s partner emphasizes the sexual act rather than the emotional relationship. This attitude is most certainly decadent because of the amoral attitude and inability to emotionally connect with one’s partner. However, what contrasts Decadence is that same idea: sexual acts were still somewhat reserved for marriage. So, Eliot is avidly describing affairs as well as sexual acts that were outside of marriage, which was still against the Decadent times. For example, Eliot writes, “In the room the women come and go” (13) and “Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?” (65-66). This implies that the main character of this poem is sleeping around with many different women and is being called out by the narrator. In conclusion, Decadence is evident in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” because of the way Eliot talks so freely about sex, but contrast with Decadence because of the main character’s ability to sleep with a multitude of women.

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