Compare and Contrast Essay on Literature: J. Alfred Prufrock and Nick Adams

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1009 Words
Date:  2021-06-18

In the two literature works The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Big Two-Hearted River, both T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway use their respective characters, J. Alfred Prufrock and Nick Adams, to essentially outline the fact that when reason and objectivity are corrupted with feelings, they are bound to foster some overly misinformed activities which in the end, prompt disappointment. This being the case, the core intent of this paper is to give a comparison and a contrast of both the two characters, J. Alfred Prufrock and Nick Adams, as well as identify how the two, are a representative of the Modern man.

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To begin with, in the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock, who is the main character, is a balding man in his middle age and who is also battling a lot of insecurities at almost every turn of his life. As exemplified in the text, Prufrock is a gloomy individual who greatly fears to make decisions. For this reason, Prufrock lives a mediocre life and is in fear of seizing any possible opportunity that comes his way. However, in the poem, Scott Fitzgerald, reveals the kind of scrutiny that Prufrock had to undergo, throughout his life, and hence his uncontrollable anxiety. From the poem, Prufrocks character is painted as one who is uncomfortable with his personality and his looks. This being the case, he lives in fear of a public opinion and is afraid of being judged. For I have known them all already, the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, and when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, then how should I begin, spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume? (Eliot 55-61).

Conversely, from the Two Big-Hearted River, Nick Adams, on the other hand, is an eponymous character who suffers trauma since a time when he was at war. Through various aspects of the poem, T.S Eliot exemplifies Nick as a character who seeks solace from different symbolized aspects of the poem. Firstly, to Nick, the river is something that will never leave. For this reason, Nick is always reassured that the fact that river is always there all the time, it will always provide. Nevertheless, despite the high hopes that Nick has in the river, his suffering at the grasshoppers is symbolized by the war that he was in, and in which, his trauma is stemmed. Unlike the river, the war is symbolic of something that was bound to change every day, and with no room for certainties. These were ordinary hoppers, but all a sooty black in color [] Now as he watched the black hopper that was nibbling, at the wool of his sock ... he realized that they had all turned black from living in the burned-over land. He realized that the fire must have come the years before, but the grasshoppers were all black now. He wondered how long they were to stay that way (Hemingway).

While comparing both Nick Adams and J. Alfred Prufrock, it is evident that the two characters have extreme emotional issues in common. Both men have these emotional issues not only affecting their everyday lives but also haunting them. For instance, Adams suffers some form of emotional turmoil in which case; he sees things that cannot be unseen. Prufrock, on the other hand, suffers from his inadequacies as a man and is always in fear of being judged by others. This being said, it is evident that although their daily struggles in life are drastically different, both men suffer alone.

Similarly, a comparison of both J. Alfred Prufrock and Nick Adams substantiates that although the two are men in some form of emotional turmoil, each of these characters has an individual battle with demons of some nature. For example, throughout his life, Nick has to battle the mental scars that he obtained from having served away from his home during the First World War. On the contrary, despite the fact that Prufrock is also fighting his inner battles, his are, however, his inner feelings that contrast with the society, precisely when dealing with women. Owing to his anxieties, Prufrock lives a miserable, mediocre life which prevents him from progressing in any of his relationships. Based on this context, the contrast between these two men is defined in the fact that Adams chooses to face his fears head on so that he could bring himself from the brink. In the text, Eliot points out that Nick gets to a decision of embarking on an individual journey to eventually find himself. On the contrary, Prufrock is meek and is in great fear of taking on his own demons. He is emotionally consumed by the fact that he is overly concerned with how other people view him and is overly meticulous about the slightest details of his life. Eliot substantiates this fact in the poem I have measured out my life in coffee spoons (Line 51). This, in essence, gives evidence to how much Prufrock was worried about public opinion.

With regard to their representation of the Modern man, both of these men can be viewed as a version of the modern man. While modernism, which was characterized by attributes and attitudes, which reflected a growing sense of disorientation and pessimism, was dominant in the United States in the early 20th century, both Earnest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot created characters that essentially represented the modern man. For example, Hemingways character Nick, is a representation of the modern man, through his introspective nature and the way he faces his own issues without wallowing in self-pity. Prufrock, on the other hand, is a representation of the modern man who embraces the negativity that surrounded modernism, through his gloom and self-pity.


Eliot, T. S. (1965). The waste land: The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock ; The hollow men ; Ash Wednesday (R. Speaight, Trans.). London: Argo.

Hemingway, E., & Steffens, R. (2000). Big two-hearted river. St. Paul, MN: HighBridge Co.

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