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27 May 2010 @ 12:24 am
 
this is mostly for gasmask but you guys can read it because I don't know I really liked this essay and I'm proud of it? 8D

read this poem first: http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html




When I first read ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, by T.S. Eliot, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. I liked the blurb of Italian in the beginning, but other than that, the poem was a little difficult for me to decipher. When we discussed it in class, however, we pointed out key things in the poem, such as the way Prufrock describes his city, his distrust of the people living in it and of society in general, and the difficulty he has in making decisions. For the most part, the traits about Prufrock we revealed as we discussed the poem in class struck me as, for the most part, oddly similar to a character in a story I really love – Rorschach, also known as Walter Kovacs, from Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen. Rorschach and J. Alfred Prufrock are characters from the same mold, but they are also from two opposite sides of the same spectrum – both have negative feelings about the cities they live in and the people there, but each character has a different take on the concept of ‘judgement’.

One of the first lines in Watchmen is spoken by Rorschach; a vigilante costumed hero who remains in action even after the banning of costumed heroes. The line reads, “This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up around their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’, and I’ll whisper, ‘No’.” (Moore 3) Rorschach thinks of the city and the people who live there as something that is disgusting, something corrupt. He works to bring justice to the people who he feels have caused the city to become this way. He works as Rorschach only at night, in the shadows, and is barely seen. Prufrock, although he does not fight crime, moves about his city and describes it in a similar way. He says, “Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets/ the muttering retreats/ of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/ and sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:/streets that follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent” (Eliot). Both men use similar, negative words to describe their surroundings and they both use similes and metaphors to explain how they feel in their own cities. Rorschach describes the streets of New York as extended gutters filled with blood, while Prufrock compares his streets to a long, drawn out argument that gets worse and worse as you go through it. They both agree that the culture of the people in their cities are undesirable, with Rorschach describing the inhabitants as whores and politicians obsessed with sex and murder and Prufrock describing the night life of his city similarly – people have one night stands in cheap hotels and the restaurants are extremely low quality. Both even have a poetic way of speaking. Even though Prufrock is a character in a poem, Eliot could have written the poem any way he desired. However, he wrote it in a lyrical, flowing style. Likewise, Moore also writes dialogue which is supposed to come from the journal Rorschach keeps in a poetic, flowing way with lots of description and contempt for the society he lives in.

Both men also seem to hold contempt for the rich and those who feel they must put on airs in order to impress people. This is evident in the line repeated by Prufrock, “In the room the women come and go/talking of Michaelangelo.” (Eliot) Likewise, Rorschach says of a meeting with a former costumed hero, “Meeting with Veidt left bad taste in mouth. He is betraying even his own shallow, liberal affectations.” Both characters don’t like people who they feel put on masks to hide who they really are. Prufrock holds the women in contempt, as he feels the women do not care nor do they know anything about Michaelangelo, they just speak of him to sound sophisticated. Rorschach feels that Adrian Veidt is betraying who he is, even going so far as to call him a ‘prostitute’, by selling diet books and action figures based off his old hero persona, Ozymandias. He feels Veidt does not even care about the issue of murder that is facing the costumed heroes, nor does he care about justice or any of the things that they were supposed to stand for – Veidt is only doing this to become even richer and impress people.

Rorschach and Prufrock have a key difference, though. Prufrock spends most of the poem debating on whether he should do things. He is extremely afraid of being judged by people and feels that a person is only free from judgement in death. He says, ‘And indeed there will be time/ to wonder, “Do I dare?” and “Do I dare?” /Time to turn back and descend the stair, /with a bald spot in the middle of my hair –/ [They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’]’ (Eliot) Prufrock is so afraid to be judged by others that he doesn’t even go out of his room to walk down the stairs because he’s afraid people will talk about how he’s balding. He says, “I am no prophet - and here’s no great matter; /I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,/ and I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker.” (Eliot) Prufrock has been judged and made fun of so many times that he feels that every opportunity that he has been given to do something great has been diminished because people have made fun of him every time.

Rorschach, on the other hand, has a completely different view of things. Rorschach has been judged so much in his life that he has gotten over it and completely sees past it. His mother was a prostitute and growing up, he suffered a lot of adversity because of it. He was constantly judged because of what his mother did and was made fun of so much, that on one instance he became fed up with the way people were treating him and impulsively beat two kids up and bit them because he was sick of how they treated him. When he grows older and the events of the main story begin to take place, Rorschach begins to take actions that anyone reading would judge him as ‘cruel’ or ‘evil’ for. However, he has faced so much adversity that by that point he is beyond caring and takes the actions that he feels will be a good punishment for wrongdoers, regardless of how people may see him. Rorschach recounts a story of a case he was once on to his social worker when he lands himself in jail. The social worker shows him a Rorschach test, and he says it looks like a dog’s head that was split in half. When the social worker asks him who did it, Rorschach says, ‘I did’. (Moore). He was on a case about a six year old girl who had been kidnapped, and he comes to a house with two dogs. He finds the girl’s underwear in the man’s house and the two dogs chewing on her bones. As punishment for the man’s crime, he kills the dogs. When the kidnapper comes back from the bar he was at, Rorschach coats the room with kerosene and lights it on fire with the man in it. In the movie, he is even more brutal. He kills the dogs in front of the kidnapper and then violently hacks at the kidnapper’s head with a knife. Rorschach does these cruel things because he feels these are the only ways that someone this terrible can be punished – in Rorschach’s mind, justice can only be brought upon corrupt people in brutal ways. Because he was raised in such harsh conditions and faced such strife when he was younger, Rorschach has little to no fear of judgement. He can exact on a victim whatever punishment he feels will suit what the person has done without worrying what people will think about him – Rorschach really doesn’t care what others think of him.

Rorschach and J. Alfred Prufrock are two sides of the same coin. They have similar worldviews, because both men feel that the cities they live in are corrupt and disgusting. The thing that makes them even more intertwined as characters is the fact that both men have to deal with judgement in their lives. Judgement and the fear that humans have of being judged is something that runs through the narrative that both men give us – while Prufrock states that he is afraid to be judged very clearly in the text of the poem, the fact that Rorschach doesn’t care about being judged runs as an undercurrent in his bits of the story. If Rorschach cared about being judged as much as Prufrock did – Prufrock is so afraid to be judged that he questions if he should even go down the stairs because people will laugh at him for having a receding hairline – he probably wouldn’t even go out and fight crime, much less go to the lengths he does to exact the punishments he feels are proper. Prufrock and Rorschach are interesting characters to look at side by side because of this - they hail from two extreme ends of the same spectrum of opinions. Prufrock can barely carry on with his life because he is afraid of judgement, while Rorschach disregards judgement altogether so he can do what he thinks is right. Without these differences, the two characters might not be as interesting to readers as they are for the simple fact that they are so similar. Authors may write characters with similar traits, but it’s the minor differences that ultimately decide whether a character will be interesting to audiences or not.