I enjoy poetry. I enjoy T. S. Eliot more than most poets. I’d love to be able to write as he does. When I saw T. S. Eliot mentioned in the title of an essay in The Imaginative Conservative, for a moment I thought it might be a sign of a little bit of imagination.
I was wrong.
“How T. S. Eliot Predicted the Coming of Male Millennials” is one of the most idiotic literary essays I’ve seen since I was a freshman in the English department at Otterbein University. The author, Auguste Meyrat, is attempting to argue that the titular character of Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Proufrock” is a precursor to the modern-day indecisive, effeminate male Millennial and just needs some male companions to toughen him up so he’ll have the courage to ask a girl on a date. He does not so much totally misunderstand “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” as randomly select a few lines from it and append them to his preferred narrative. Indeed, he writes as though he is a Junior in High School who remembered that he had to write a term paper on Eliot twelve hours before the paper was due– and this is all the more shocking considering that Meyrat is a High School English teacher. He ought to know better. Meyrat provides no compelling textual evidence for his thesis; he takes no time to understand or appreciate the text at all, but rather takes his selected quotes and conscripts them against their will into a rant about how modern men aren’t masculine enough.
“T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” shows that men do not need more pleasurable escapes or more time, but loving friends and an introduction to reality. They need to listen to human voices instead of the illusive mermaids out in the ocean. And they need to do this before the shock becomes too great and they drown…” and immediately we’re in a morass. The famous mermaids at the end of the poem are not escapist fantastical sirens who sing to Prufrock– they specifically sing “each to each” and ignore him, a fact which blows Meyrat’s analysis completely out of the water. They are, in fact, a metaphor for the attractive yet off-putting and ultimately unattainable nature of female companionship for Prufrock.