Saturday, April 28, 2007

Biography of J. Alfred Prufrock (Lauren Penkala)

(Note: in Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature, students are offered the option of responding to literature in a creative manner. For T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Lauren Penkala decided to write J. Alfred Prufrock's biography--from the point of view of an added character: Emily, his sister. This piece was done during a 75-minute test)


I, L. Emily Prufock, sister of J. Alfred Prufock, think of my brother as a man who lived an interesting life. Here today, at his funeral, I will give a short biography of his 68 years of life.

When I think of my little brother, I think of a mischievous boy, always curious, throwing caution to the wind. He got himself into more trouble as a child than all of our other siblings combined, but this helped him in the future. He did learn from his mistakes, and this made him an experienced contemplative, deeper man.

In his teen years, he became more quiet, but not shy. J. Alfred loved the ladies, and most loved him as well. Maybe it was his dark, full head of hair, or his muscular, masculine frame. Maybe it was his occupation – a business man. Some say it was because of how handsome he always looked in his simple yet eye-catching business suit. He listened to music on a regular basis – to help him clear his mind. Alfred was an orderly person who hated not knowing the future, and planned out his every moment – all the way to his death.

After work, Alfred, despite his handsomeness, did not go out with the ladies (he only flirted), he went home for a quiet evening alone, where he drank tea, had toast, and watched his sleek yellow cat, Chester.

Alfred could have made many friends, and probably even found a wife. But he was a hard worker and valued his time alone. He did not enjoy art, which made it difficult for him to relate to a woman once the relationship got past flirting (if it ever did).

Alfred got his strong body from walking on the beach. Sometimes Alfred ran. He imagined mermaids in the ocean, and he swam too, but never found a mermaid.

My brother had one weakness, the fear of death. After retiring from the business world at a fairly young age, 40, he began to have this fear. He wrote much about it too. Alfred even spoke of it to me. He read the Bible and believed in God, but that did not end his fear.

So he wrote about it, hoping the fear would disperse. Alfred compared death to his cat, Chester, and worried so much that by the age of 42, he had a bald spot shining. He was very self-conscious and thought people were talking about him. As he grew older, his body withered quickly, becoming frail and thin. Alfred went from a mischievous boy, to a confident teen, to a successful business man, to an old, weary man of age of 55. We assume that a disease overtook him – a 40 or 50 or 60 year old man should not look as badly as he did. He wept, fasted and prayed, as did we all, but he did not improve. On his final day, he requested to be taken to a nearby window to look out at the ocean. This was difficult for me, an 80 year old woman, but I managed – I could see it in his 68-year-old eyes that this was his last desire. I lugged him to the window, and left to prepare lunch. When I returned 25 minutes later, he could not be awakened. He had met his mermaid.

Maybe he could reunite with mom and day, our two older sisters, and my husband. Maybe, just maybe he is no longer afraid.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission

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