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Compare and Contrast the Characters J. Alfred Prufrock and Nick

The characters Alfred Prufrock and Nick Adams are both men who reflect the fears, thoughts, and aspirations of the modern man. Prufrock’s character is described in the poem titled The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Elliot while the character Nick is common in several of Ernest Hemingway’ stories. This essay analyses Nick based on the short story titled The Three-Day Blow. A critical analysis of the two characters reveal both similarities and differences in relation to how the two men reflect the modern man. The character of Prufrock is revealed through the first person narration in the poem while that of Nick is evident from his conversation with Bill. Apparently, Nick is a confident young man with the ability to face and overcome issues affecting the modern man while Prufrock seems disillusioned and devoid of the esteem that is common with the modern man.

A key representation of the modern man is how he relates to women in the society. The two characters have different perspectives of women in the society and how to cope with them. Nick had the opportunity to fell in love with a woman and understand the intricacies of love. Even though he had broken up with his lover, Nick seemed to understand women more than Prufrock. Hemingway writes that “Then he had planned to stay in Charlevoix all winter so he could be near Marge” (5). The conversation indicates that Nick was in love with Marge and was even planning to settle down in marriage before they broke up. That is a common trend with modern men who try to pursue love relationships with the hope of starting a family. On the other hand, Prufrock lacked the confidence to approach women and understand them. He indicates that “In the room, the women come and go” (Elliot line 35). Prufrock only observes them and does not have the courage to approach them. He feels inferior because he does not think the women will have his attention as a below average man.

It is clear that the two characters have different sources of inspirations in life that they look up to as mentors. While Nick looks up to his father and other older men in the society, Prufrock seems to be more focused on fictional characters. He seems lost in the past, unlike Nick who has embraced the modern reality of life. In his conversation with Bill, they discuss their fathers and then “They sat looking into the fire and thinking of this profound truth” (Hemingway 6). It is evident that they respected their fathers and looked up to them as role models. However, Prufrock prefers to give examples of fictional characters such as Michelangelo and Hamlet. It seems that he lacks immediate social support such as a friend or close relative that can help him overcome his disillusionment. As a modern man, Nick is able to overcome his unfortunate breakup with Marge because of talking with his friend Bill. The two young men encourage each other over a drink as is common with most men in the modern age.

The life of both Nick and Prufrock reflect the lifestyle of the modern man. Nick and his friend Bill engage in most of the activities that modern men love to do such as reading books, watching sports, drinking alcohol, and going out fishing or hunting. As a modern man, Nick has to balance his manly activities with the care of family or a spouse whom he had just lost. Bill tells him that “Probably we wouldn’t even be going fishing tomorrow” (Hemingway 5) because he understands the responsibilities he would have had as a family man. Conversely, Prufrock does not engage in many activities as described in his monolog. Nevertheless, the mention of “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin” (Eliot line 43-44) points to the importance of image common with modern men. Prufrock understands that he had to portray the right image as a modern man if he was to earn the respect of the universe. He is conscious of his self-image such as a bald spot because he understands the need for him to look sharp as a way to impress the women.

In conclusion, it is evident that the two characters are representative of the modern man. However, Prufrock’s character is mired with issues of low-self esteem and uncertainties about his image as a modern man. He is still stuck in the past by comparing himself with the fictional world of the past. That makes the character of Nick stand out as the perfect modern man that faces challenges in life but has the confidence to overcome them. Most importantly, the story The Three-Day Blow shows how the modern man derives social and psychological support from friends, alcohol, books, sports and other manly activities. Hence, the analysis presents a sharp contrast between the two characters in the manner they cope with their challenges, especially regarding women relationships.

Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Poetry archives/poems N.P, n.d. Web. 29January 2017

Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway. 1st ed. New York: Scribner, 1953. Print.

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