The Human Condition: Meaning?

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The human condition is born out of a struggle to cope with the erratic circumstances which arise in one’s life with the consequent reward for our effort being self -realization. T. S Eliot attempts to narrate this through The Love Song of J.

Alfred Prufrock which utilises a dramatic monologue to demonstrate the traits of insecurity, and isolation, Tennesee William’s The Glass Menagerie which showcases the human tendency to escape in order to cope with our environment and Michael Gow’s play Away which proves that through the inevitability of death and loss we find resilience.As humans, encouragement and support is essential for normal functioning thus the question arises as to what transpires when one is devoid of this. T. S Eliot explores this notion through the poem, The Love Song of J.

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Alfred Prufrock, where the protagonist, is able to realise the joys of the human condition yet is unable to revel in them due to his awareness of his own limitations. The superficial bourgeois social values upheld by upper middle class America during the early 20th century undermine Prufrock’s capability and make him insecure.Prufrock’s spiritual suffocation by this pretentious society is emphasized through his evaluation, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. The symbolism of the coffee spoons underlines the unsatisfying, carefully calculated life of insignificance he leads yet the query, “so how should I presume? ” reflects his inability to break free of these manacles, an inability that arises through his insecurity.

The fragmented structure of the poem and the switching of active to passive personas coupled with the repetition of a question ,”so how should I presume? , in every stanza serves in communicating the apprehensive nature of the protagonist and highlights his inadequacy.Stream of consciousness is furthermore used to demonstrate Prufrock’s insecurity as the reason for his indecisiveness, “Time yet for a hundred decisions and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea” The juxtaposition between Prufrock’s neuroticism and the mundane taking of afternoon tea magnifies the need for security. Eliot uses Prufrock to illustrate the human condition’s need for security to aid in realizing our inner self.The fear of isolation also plays an imperative role in determining the human condition.

In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock’s want of self-realisation is suffocated by his fear of rejection from his superficial society, “Do I dare disturb the Universe”. His consequent spiritual alienation is manifested physically thorough the descriptions of the urbanized city, “half-deserted streets..

. spread out like a patient etherised. ” The simile uses the harsh streetscapes of the newly industrialised America to emphasise the mental bleakness caused by Prufrock’s dread of isolation.The juxtaposition of the refrain, “In the room women come and go talking of Michelangelo” with these streetscapes further highlights the spiritual damage caused by materialistic societies.

Prufrock’s awareness of the “drowning” of his soul in “tea and cakes and ices” is vividly portrayed through the synecdoche of a crab, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the silent seas” where he wants to lie in oblivion rather than face the constraints of the human condition.At the end of the poem, Prufrock’s confesses that he doesn’t think the mermaids “will sing to me”. The isolation of this line from the rest of the poem is a physical manifestation of Prufrock’s emotions, the fact that even in fantasy does Prufrock become rejected reflects the human condition’s legitimate fear that no one will notice us or take care of us and that. Eliot therefore claims that the human condition’s want for companionship surpasses that of inner-peace The pain which characterizes the human condition is subsidized by our tendency to escape into fantasies.

In Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie the economic frustration of the Wingfield family after the Great Depression is highlighted through the simile of the “hive-like conglomerations… that flower as warty growths”.

This is juxtaposed with the ideal of the American Dream, represented through the metaphor of “implacable fires of human desperation” which emphasize the impossibility of the American Dream, a notion that hard work and courage inevitably leads to prosperity.It is this dream that Amanda Wingfield escapes to, “Try and you will succeed! and ironically the object from which her son, Tom, the narrator of the play escapes from. Tom’s argument that, “Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse! ” is juxtaposed through his escape into “the movies night after night” The hypocritical nature of Tom illustrates man’s tendency to delve further into illusion as the amount of problems increase. The allusion to the “revolution in.

.. Guernica” is juxtaposed to the uneasy peace in America and parallels Tom’s want to escape from his volatile surroundings.This is symbolized through the fire escape, a visually prominent part of the set which conveys possibility of a way out and Tom fascination with the image of the magician that “got out of the coffin without removing one nail”.

The coffin represents Tom’s life to which he is confined and the nails symbolize the emotional constraints and obligations Tom has towards his sister crippled sister, Laura. Laura herself “lives in a world of her own-a world of-little glass ornaments ” and the breaking of the animals by Tom foreshadows his abandonment of fraternal duties towards Laura.Tom’s confession at the end of the play, ” Oh Laura..

I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! ” shows that Tom must confront his issues not run away from them Thus Williams uses symbols and juxtaposition to reveal that although the problems of the human condition are alleviated by fantasy, the problems remain and it is better to deal with them than escape them. Michael Gow’s Away deals with the cornerstones of the human condition, mortality and loss, and highlights the strength of the human condition in coping with these aspects.The play is set within 1968 Australia and the profound loss caused by the senseless Vietnam War is reflected through the character of Coral, who son was killed in the war. Her inability to confront her emotional pain transforms her into a “ghost” like state and is exemplified through her moving soliloquy where she questions, “Is it better for them to die like that? Like gods? ” The rhetorical questions allow the responders to sense her inner pain.

Coral’s incapability to cope with her grief is further agitated by her husband, Roy’s lack of support.Roy’s insistence that it was right to “Defend that (high) standard (of living)” by fighting the war is contrasted to the evasive reply of Coral’s “help me choose a dress”. It is only through her emotional connection with Tom, a young boy with leukemia, does Coral begin to transform. The intertextuality of Midsummer Night’s dream, in which Tom is Puck, foreshadows his role as the restorer here to “make amends”.

Coral’s acceptance of her son’s death is shown metaphorically in the allegory of ‘The Stranger on the Shore’.The play parallels Coral’s inability to detach herself from her lost loved one. Coral’s lines read “in her own voice” of “I’m walking..

. I’m walking” reflects her acceptance of death through Tom’s acceptance of his. Therefore Coral develops resilience through her losses. Gwen’s materialistic outlook on life, “We’ve got a new caravan.

Everything in it you could want”, is a result of her struggle during her youth against The Great Depression and is symbolized through her reliance on “bex powder”.The destruction of her all material possessions in the storm forces Gwen to confront her materialism and become a stronger person in the process, ,”what do you think of me? I’m sorry…

and not just to you… to everybody”.

The storm is also a metaphor for the healing power of nature, paralleled by Gow’s use of light and the outdoors. After the storm “there is darkness” then the “light becomes warm and intense. “, signifying the positive outcomes the human condition experiences that result from loss. Furthermore Gwen’s inability to swallow the bex powder, “I can’t do it” is symbolic of her change.

Michael Gow thus proves that a superficial life can be led but to truly understand oneself obstacles and hardships must be overcome but ultimately they lead to a greater understanding of self. Through the texts The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Away and The Glass Menagerie, the human condition is shown to be pervaded by suffering and loss. However to attain the discovery of the inner self one must journey through the negative aspects of the Human Condition and it is this journey which strengthens and defines the human condition.

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The Human Condition: Meaning?. (2017, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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