Sunday, January 27, 2008

J. Alfred Prufrock and His Women, A Character Study (Emily Morris)

Night time has ascended and a tall figure walks down a dark alley, the only visible light coming from small neon signs protruding from brick buildings like rainbows in the night sky. With the strong gusts of wind the sound of distant traffic and a few bums discussing politics on the corner blow through the alley. The smell of burnt garbage and urine stagnate in the air like a never lifting fog. This man walks with a quick pace and holds his chin tucked close to his chest, only lifting his eyes to read the signs as he passes through. There is a chill in his bones as with the darkness came the cold. He is a familiar sight in this alley coming here for the comfort he cannot achieve on the main streets of town. His mind races with fleeting thoughts of honesty and integrity, but his body continues to press him on through the night to find solace in the arms of his next lover.

As he approaches the familiar threshold he peers through the unstained portions of glass in the window pains. There is a warming sensation in his groin as he observes the ladies laughing with each other over a game of spades in the parlor. The brunette on the right laughs joyously as she apparently won the last hand. He watches her as her hair flows with the motion of her alabaster neck, laying softly on the bare shoulders and tickling her back. This one he knows as Sophia, she speaks with a soft accent of somewhere exotic a low sultry voice that pleases his ears. He has had her company many times and enjoys her immensely.

He enters the house that will shelter his aging bones for the evening. Cigarette smoke attempts to escape through the open door as the chilled October air threatens to follow him in. He hands his coat and hat over to the Madame of the house, her name is Chelsea and she is an everlasting beauty, with grace and money. Chelsea trains these girls in the house on how to be ladies to the men that come here, how to speak politely and listen with care when they choose to discuss their days. She teaches them the art of seduction that will warm the coldest heart. She shows them how to be tigresses in bed and how to make a polite exit when morning comes. Chelsea recognizes the man with a familiar smile and with one swift motion extends her hand for a greeting. He brushes his lips on the back of her hand and responds with a greeting regarding the change of seasons. Chelsea offers his most preferred drink and he accepts with a nod.

The man, once again locked onto Sophia approaches her as she deals the deck of cards to the ladies around the table. The arrangement for her company is made and Sophia excuses herself from the card table and locks her arm into the crook of his elbow they are approached by Chelsea bearing his drink, cheap gin and soda water with a wedge of lime hanging to the side of the glass. Chelsea approves the transaction and the two lovers ascend the stairs to the room where they will be spending the evening.

The man selects an overstuffed wing chair and props his feet on the stool set in front of it. Sophia moves across the room lighting candles for ambiance. He stares at his glass, swirls the ice around and takes another sip. Sophia moves toward him, locking his eyes with her sultry gaze as she moves closer, he can smell her perfume. She smells of exotic flowers and clean linen. Sophia bends down, exposing the crest of her breasts tucked tightly into her bodice. She loosens his laces and removes each shoe placing them side-by-side on the floor. Sophia moves to straddle the stool placing his feet in her lap. With her thumb she rubs circles into the soles of his feet. She politely asks him "What miraculous things did you accomplish today?" He returns his gaze to his glass and returns her question with a soft voice he says, "there will be time to discuss these things, now is not the time." Choosing silence instead of conversation Sophia continues rubbing his feet and humming a soft tune.

Sophia’s hands move up from his feet and begin a soft caress to the inside of his legs. Still maintaining silence he locks her gaze with his and enjoys the feeling of her womanly touch. Conflicting thoughts race through his mind. He accepts her touch, he craves what comes next, but how on earth can he continue to act this way. He recognizes his true age; he knows the inevitable truth of age. He has begun the downward step to death. His hair is thinning; his forehead shows the wrinkles where years of stern concentration and heated arguments have crossed his face. His eyes have lost luster and his teeth are yellow now from years of combating stress with tobacco.

The night progresses as usual, the physical desire quenched in a bed of tossed sheets and the smell of sweat. The sun has begun to rise; through the cracks in the window shade he can see the gray shades of morning. In all the years of coming here he does not speak to these women. How can he explain what he does during the day, when the light of the sun graces the sky, he is not the same man laying in this whore’s bed now. If they ever ask why he never took a bride, how can he explain the tragedy of loosing the only person he ever truly loved. How can he speak to these women, and why should he.

Through all the years of coming here he has known these women he has loved them all. He has felt their embrace and the warmth of their bodies. He recognizes the sound of their laughter he knows them well. He rises to his feet and begins dressing in last night’s clothes. His eyes travel over the view of Sophia’s body as he exits the room without any goodbyes or condolences. The other men are leaving now, and he spots one exiting the room up the hall. He asks himself, "am I any different then that man there, or the one still sleeping in the room over there? Am I any different, any better then them?" He toils with the idea of paying off his house account and never returning again. He may just be getting too old for this. Better yet he knows he is getting too old for this.

As he begins his walk home to his apartment on 5th street, he is angry with himself for allowing his physical urges to override his moral approach to life. He recognizes it is time for him to end this behavior, to accept his age, and to accept that every day draws him closer to death.

Will he return to the house? It’s left unsaid. Will he ever be truly happy with himself? That’s left un-read.

(Emily Morris' note: After reading this poem I analyzed the character or rather what I thought of the character. I broke down every section into an action of a rather undesirable man. I pictured a pitiful man, a man that takes his nights at a whorehouse. A man that during the day he portrays an honorable man a role model to society’s rights.)


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Fall 2007

Published with Permission

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