Analyze the sense of self of Prufrock, the speaker and main character of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Although he is part of the early 20th century upper-class society that attends tea parties, Prufrock clearly suffers from low self-esteem and social alienation. Use Cooley’s concept of the looking-glass self to explain his identity-formation. Find examples of the theory in the poem.
The introductory paragraph should provide a thesis sentence, stating that Prufrock’s sense of self can be understood in terms of Cooley’s theory, and give a brief definition of the theory, including the “three principle elements,” or steps (or as I like to call them, phases). Then the body of the paper should provide examples of Cooley’s process of identity-formation from the poem. Present evidence by quoting and interpreting specific lines. All three phases are clearly evident, most of the time in the same set of images or metaphors or within a group of lines. Note that the three phases can occur virtually simultaneously in a person’s particular experience; however, the lines may also indicate different phases at different points in the poem.
For example, in one section, Prufrock compares himself to an insect in a old-style insect collection, in which bugs were pinned through and mounted in rows with identification: “When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall” (l. 58). This metaphor conveys that he thinks of himself as pathetic and defeated; he imagines that others see him as rather repulsive and inconsequential, like an insect, and his self-esteem is brought to an extremely low level. In accordance with Cooley’s theory, he is imagining how he appears to others; he is imagining their judgment of him; and he adjusts his sense of self. Provide several such examples. Note that almost all of the poem takes place within the imagination or memory of Prufrock, and Cooley’s first two phases involve the imagination.
You must use Cooley’s concept as the basis for this analysis.
1. Use only poems or stories from the Zip Notes Coursepack.
3. Use a Works Cited listing for each work in correct MLA format (see your handbook). The full publication information for each story or poem is available in the bibliography of the Coursepack (pages 117-19). Indicate lines in poems using the abbreviations l. for line and ll. for lines. Example: (ll. 14-15) for lines 14-15. Cite quotes from short stories by giving the original page number from the photocopy (not the Coursepack page number) in parentheses.
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