The American Puritan Jeremiad Tradition in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Ting-ting Zhou


In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot employs an admonishing style and represents the Puritan errand to indicate the influence of the American Puritan jeremiad tradition. Like a prophet howling in the wilderness; Eliot denounces the moral corruption of the New England city Boston and the spiritual paralysis of its inhabitants. Besides, he goes back to the Bay Colony during the 17th century and ironically represents the Puritan errand into the wilderness. Eliot’s attitude towards the Puritan errand is ambivalent. Influenced by his family’s sense of mission, Eliot is haunted by images which remind him of the Puritan errand. Meanwhile, he denies the errand by a satirical portrait of Prufrock, the modern incarnation of John the Baptist. The poem can be considered as an anti-jeremiad. The anti-jeremiad is not a rejection of the Puritan jeremiad but a variation of a same figural-symbolic outlook. Both jeremiads and anti-jeremiads are equal and opposite expressions of the symbol of America. The symbol sustains and restricts the imagination of Eliot, barring him from paths that led beyond the boundaries of American culture.

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International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

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