The Irish Ballad: Past, Present, and Future Time in Joyce's "The Dead" and Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Though James Joyce's realist short story "The Dead" and T.S. Eliot's mock-epic poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" both describe a climate of self-conscious emotional inarticulacy and division, the protagonists of each work deny themselves the pleasures of the present by their refusal to integrate differing tenses into their lives. The alienated Gabriel obscures the past and its shades in "The Dead," and the insecure Prufrock's anticipatory nightmares mire him in a prison as static as his repetitive and symmetrical stanzas. These two hallmarks of Modernist literature critique the spiritual desiccation of the early 20th-century and, not surprisingly, it is the temporal movement of regression to better times, not progression to an unknown future, that rejuvenates Gabriel and drowns Prufrock.
Willful dislocation from Ireland is one of the more outright signs of Gabriel's severance from the past. His conversation with Molly Ivors at his aunts' annual Christmas partya liminal event that looks forward to the future while remembering the past, but one which has grown stale for Gabrielcements his status as a "West Briton," not a patriotic Irishman:
"And why do you go...
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