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.
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.