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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Prufrock the Ripper?

February 22, 2005

I read T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" earlier this term for Intro to Literary Study. I enjoyed the poem, but all I could keep thinking was: "For a *love* poem, this is pretty darn creepy!"

This is what I wrote about the poem earlier this month:

"I have to say that I'm pretty glad for the lady in question that J. Alfred decided not to ask his lady friend the dreaded question because J. Alfred is kinda creepy. Some lines to back this up:

"Like a patient etherised on a table"
"There will be time to murder and create,"
"I know the voices dying with a dying fall"
"spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways"
"Is it perfume from a dress That makes me so digress?"
"ragged claws" "malingers"
"I have seen my head ... brought in on a platter,"
"Till the human voices wake us, and we drown."

As we were talking about the poem in class, all I could think was "JACK THE RIPPER!" Yes, J. Alfred is -that- creepy! I mean, he wanders deserted streets in October at night watching people through their windows obsessing about the ladies. I think old J. Alfred is asking the question "Should I kill her?" as evidenced by the lines:

"There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create."

.....

"And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?' "

.....

"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?"

Maybe he's thinking about "love" or maybe he's thinking about murder. Would it be reading too much into the text to suspect J. Alfred Prufrock of being a potential serial killer? It's hard to say, isn't it? I thought it would be interesting to research Jack the Ripper and I did find out some interesting stuff:

1) The sensational Jack the Ripper murders took place in 1888 during the months of August and November. The series consisted of 5 brutal murders of London prostitutes by a person who is still not identified.

Prufrock wanders the streets in October. T.S. Eliot was born in 1888.

My conjecture? T.S. Eliot would have certainly heard about the murderous streak, still unresolved and still hotly investigated and debated in his time period. I bet he would have felt intrigued by the event since it took place in the year of his birth.

2) One of the more recent suspected killers is a British poet named Francis Thompson (1859 - 1907).

Although T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, he later moved to England and became a citizen. He wouldn't have come in contact with Mr. Thompson but he -may- have come across his work and certainly would have heard about his accusation.

Again, as a poet, T.S. Eliot's imagination may have been captured by the idea of a poet turned serial killer. It's just an interesting idea and it's pure conjecture... but it's still a neat idea! Can you see the J. Alfred Prufrock - Jack the Ripper connection when you read the piece?

Moira at 01:43 PM :: Comments (8) :: ::
Comments:

Hey, this is really interesting to think about, Moira. You're blogging up a storm, and each post is deep with thought :-) Way to be, Bloginator!

I've studied handwriting (a hobby of mine) and it's interesting to note the characteristics found in the scripts of murderers--I wonder what Jack the Ripper's would look like...

Anyway, I'd like to note that many murderers within intimate or even stalker-like relationships (whether it is a two-way relationship or merely one-way stalking), the murderer may be obsessed with the person. Is Prufrock obsessed?? Could be. I like that you pointed at the lines that seem a little too creepy a la Law & Order--nice touch. This would be something to look at if, indeed, a murder spawned from something written like this. *shiver* Let's not give anyone any ideas...!

Posted by: Karissa at February 22, 2005 09:41 PM

I really liked the idea you had about this man being a seril killer also. I reqad through the poem once and saw it as a man who was fighting age and complaining about how the women would ignore him and the men would make fun of him, but now I wonder if he wasn't using these things to convince himself that he had the right to rid the world of these women who wer so petty that they thought only of their own enjoyment. This will lead me to read this poem again and try to figgure it out.

Posted by: Tammy Roberts at February 22, 2005 10:00 PM

I really liked the idea you had about this man being a seril killer also. I reqad through the poem once and saw it as a man who was fighting age and complaining about how the women would ignore him and the men would make fun of him, but now I wonder if he wasn't using these things to convince himself that he had the right to rid the world of these women who wer so petty that they thought only of their own enjoyment. This will lead me to read this poem again and try to figgure it out.

Posted by: Tammy Roberts at February 22, 2005 10:00 PM

as you can see i still don't hae the handle on this blogging thing. Sorry
Tammy

Posted by: Tammy Roberts at February 22, 2005 10:01 PM

Well.. I just posted a response to this and it didn't work! Ick!

Karissa - Thanks for the compliments!

As for Jack's writing - there is a graphic of Jack the Ripper signature on one of the sources I used for my blog entry (follow the link for Francis Thompson, i believe it was). Apparently Jack wrote a letter to the police and this graphic is a composite of that. Neat.

How neat that you do handwriting analysis as a hobby! I've always found the idea of that fascinating. Do you do readings for your friends or what? Do you find it to be accurate?

Good point about the obsessive stalker thing! Yet another point proving that Prufrock is a potential serial killer? Maybe... ;c)

Tammy - All of what you said is what I got from the inital reading of the poem as well. However I found that when I started to break it apart, I thought that Prufrock was a pretty creepy character. And don't worry about not being a blogging expert yet... you'll get there: have no fear. I was a *newbie* last semester! ;c)

Posted by: moira at February 23, 2005 10:42 AM

1. Jack the Ripper is an interesting fellow. More than likely a doctor, not a poet.

2. I felt the same way. Sometimes serial killers use alias's. If you think of the poem as being true, perhaps Prufrock is an alias (and we know that T.S. Eliot was born in 1888, but perhaps the man known as T.S. Eliot used an assume name? just to keep up the creepiness)

Posted by: Lou Gagliardi at February 23, 2005 07:28 PM

Lou - I did note that most of the other suspects were men but I thought the idea of a poet turned serial killer to be a QUITE interesting one which is why I suspected that perhaps T.S. Eliot's imagination had been similiarly intrigued by the idea.

You inspired to be play with an anagram generator on the name "J. Alfred Prufrock:"

http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/anagram.cgi?anagram=J+Alfred+Prufrock

I didn't come up with anything particularly interesting but the words:
"Jack" "Lurker" "Lack" "Dr" (as an abbreviation for Doctor?) "Darker" "Drear" "Faker" "Freak" "Feral" "Freud" + a million other words that have nothing to do with anything. ;c)

Posted by: moira at February 24, 2005 12:03 AM

I had the same immediate reaction on first hearing Prufrock.

I looked at Thompson as a possible prototype for Prufrock, his poetry and his life bear a strong resemblance, and Eliot's style is almost a mockery of Thompson, whose poetry would illustrate that.

BTW, just to stir your juices, Thompson was a failed medical student, he wandered the streets of Whitechapel during the canonical and non-canonical Ripper murders, he was addicted to opium, possessed a leather apron, carried a scalpel, claimed to have lived with a young prostitute, was rejected by his family for unknown reasons, aspired to the life of De Quincey (Confessions of an English Opium eater & Murder as an Art...), wrote poetry and a short story about the disembowling of women in 1891 ... and he had roomed on Commerrcial street, just around the corner from where all of the ladies lived (they all lived very close by one another) etc.

Eliot would have heard of him from various sources when he visited London in 1911 as he was writing Prufrock, Eliot was an admirer of the symbolist and aesthetic movements, and he had been introduced to Thompson's "Hound of Heaven" (Now doesn't that idea sound creepy?), and indirectly through a couple of other routes (poets and reviews that I know he read)

Anyway. I may be wrong, but it is an interesting set of intersections.

Steve

Posted by: Steve at May 10, 2005 03:48 PM
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