Moral Choice and Compliance: Exploration of Justice in “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock”


Set in an urban locale of early 20th century Progressive America, T.S.Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” accounts the psychophysical inertia of a man namely Prufrock through his confessional dramatic monologues reverberating within his subjective mental space. Considering monologues as a reflection of an individual’s past or current experiences with others, the paper seeks to explore mutual reciprocation of Prufrock with other characters and vice versa, which reveal implementation of their subjective choices and sense of ‘Fairness’ or ‘Justice’ in a social context of a flourishing laissez faire economy. Since social justice can be evaluated justly within the rationale of social contract, the poem is hypothetically placed and examined within David Gauthier’s social contract setting known as Moral Contracterianism (based on his book Morals by Agreement, 1986). Moral Contract, as a theory of making moral choices towards a justified distribution of resources in a free market economy makes it an apt paradigm to consolidate my arguments. The mutual engagement of all in the poem is examined on the basis of their adherence to type of ‘moral choice’ as prescribed by moral contract theory in forming a stable mutual compliance. The paper tries to answer whether Prufrock and others realise their maximum subjective utility and a fair treatment as social contractors. Also it grapples with Eliot’s portrayal of ‘Reconciliation’ with regard to Prufrock and questions its justness.

Author Information
Kongkona Dutta, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2019
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the ACAH2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon