The multitude of underlying notions central to the all-encompassing human condition, as portrayed and delved into within a wide variety of literary and visual texts, are just as crucial to an exploration of humanity as the numerous vivid emotions and feelings they evoke. Love’s proclivity for overriding ordinary sane instincts, the nature of social connections or lack thereof amongst people in a community, and the persistent impacts of profoundly bitter regret are all particular concepts of the human condition regularly examined by authors of creative works. Through an examination of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Michael Leunig’s cartoon The Life You Lead, and Guy de Maupassant’s short story All Over, it is evident that the various fundamental interpretations of collective human existence are truly intertwined with their associated thoughts and attitudes.
No critical analysis of the instincts and desires innate to the human condition, as depicted by countless creative composers and universally contemplated by individuals within society, would be complete without a consideration of love both as a concept of humanity and in terms of its accompanying emotive effects. The undeniable romantic inclinations attributed to fellow human beings have been presented throughout time from a multitude of varying perspectives, with the common ubiquitous implication that love’s sheer power can invalidate all rational human tendencies and lead to certain fundamentally correlating emotional consequences. Such evocative impacts are evidenced in T.S Eliot’s The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock through a recurring motif in “There will be time, there will be time”, demonstrating Prufrock’s indecisive uncertainty as he procrastinates and hesitates in approaching the woman of his desires. Evidently, the magnitude of Prufrock’s physical attraction is sufficient to overrule reason as he attempts to subvert the inexorable passage of time; yet inevitably he is doomed in his efforts and accordingly is left to experience overwhelming hopelessness and despair. Prufrock again rhetorically questions his own manhood and tenacity in failing to seize the moment and make an advance on the beautiful lady, revealing through the rhyming couplet “Is it perfume from a dress / That makes me so digress?” that he has been rendered a terrified and anxious emotional wreck by the mere intimation of love. Within this elemental paradigm of the human condition, Guy de Maupassant’s All Over displays the marked contrast in Compte de Lormerin’s sustained transition from an initial “Lormerin is still alive!” to “All over, Lormerin!”, emphasising through this exclamatory tone the severity of his emotive despair as a direct realisation of love’s lingering repercussions. Personification of Lormerin’s newly resurrected resurgence of love as “like an awakened wild beast ready to bite him” exhibits through simile the uncontrollably primal nature of passionate romantic love, with vivid animalistic results in the sheer totality of affectionate sentiment he succumbs to. A visual investigation of The Life You Lead further supports the notion of binding interrelationships between conceptions of love and their emotional manifestations, reinforced through the cartoonist Leunig’s extensive symbolism of light in opposition to dark. Whereas bright shining light represents an idealistic state of existence that can only be imagined in hindsight of prior decisions, the central character is shrouded in gloomy shadow as he trudges onwards into dark oblivion. Clearly visible at the cartoon’s main focus is the protagonist’s forlorn facial expression, contributing to the underlying impression that past mistakes made regarding love would likely have contributed at least some degree to his depressive emotional condition of misery. Indeed, Lormerin in All Over is bewildered and overcome by the restoration of his wild affection to the point where he can no longer distinguish between his former love and her daughter, posing the rhetorical question “Which is the real one?” as he irrationally seeks out a modicum of the passion that once consumed his humanity. This examination of love’s position in human existence is brought full-circle in The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock as Prufrock, metaphorically “pinned and wriggling on the wall”, is trapped in an emotional position of panic and fear as a victim of his own vulnerability and uncertainty in matters of love. Thus, the intimately conjoined strands of conceptual love and its associated emotive accompaniments are presented, across a variety of text types and literary works, as an unavoidably integrated constituent in any truly balanced assessment of the human condition.
The interpersonal connections and interactions between fellow human beings evidently constitute an inescapable component of our collective everyday reality amongst human existence, allowing us to form a defence mechanism against the lonely abandonment of social isolation. Despite this instinctual facet of the human condition, however, there will inevitably be those within society who are either incapable of such relationships or victims of certain circumstances – as espoused in multiple literary and visual texts, these unfortunate individuals will be left to suffer the resultant emotional impacts of solitude and social segregation. T.S. Eliot, setting the scene early in The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, describes the impersonal world in which Prufrock exists through a simile of “streets that follow like a tedious argument / of insidious intent”. Reinforced by alliteration, an overwhelming sense of isolation and resigned sorrow is fabricated through this image of being truly alone in the vast expanse of society’s endlessly deceptive “streets”, exiled and watching on as an outsider. Compte de Lormerin in Guy de Maupassant’s All Over similarly experiences a distinct sense of disillusionment and alienation from the rest of society, living a reclusive existence where his only contact with the outside world is by virtue of the letters he receives daily. It is apparent from Lormerin’s polysyndetonic recollections of his former romantic conquest, “a thousand forgotten memories … , far off and sweet and melancholy now”, that he abruptly and unnervingly realises with great anguish his life has sorely lacked such tender social relationships since these long-gone interactions from the distant past. Lormerin ultimately undergoes a complete transition from “charming and handsome” to “tracing the wrinkles, discovering those frightful ravages, which he had not perceived till now”, establishing a marked contrast to demonstrate how prolonged social isolation dehumanises individuals and saps any naïve emotional optimism they may once have possessed. This underlying concept of detachment from society and its emotive consequences is extended in Leunig’s The Life You Lead, with the cartoon’s high-angle perspective making the central protagonist appear completely alone and inconsequential as part of the bigger picture of humanity. A metaphor of society’s never-endingly impersonal streets is again utilised in this image, reinforcing this impression of oppressive segregation in conjunction with its emotional accompaniments depicted as the character’s disheartened facial expression. The prevailing nature of the human condition is accurately portrayed by the central focus, a perpendicular intersection of paths, in that society consists primarily of a multitude of solitary and desolate entities each going their own separate ways. Accordingly in The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a fundamental lack of understanding and interpersonal communication is illustrated by the bland tone and repetition in Prufrock’s flat statement “That is not what I meant at all. / That is not it, at all”. Such an absence of social linkages, indicated through Prufrock’s metaphorical description “a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas”, likens himself to an ocean crab retreating to safety inside its protective shell and fittingly conveys the sheer scale of emotional isolation he is suffering. As a core factor influencing the human condition, postulated and scrutinised by numerous composers of literary and visual works, the social relationships and associations between individuals in humanity are thus affirmed as compellingly interleaved with their connected emotive after-effects.
It is an inevitable consequence of human nature to reflect on decisions we have made and actions we have taken in previous times, as explored in numerous literary works, with the resulting regretful uncertainty capable of weighing down an ordinarily sane individual’s state of existence in terms of its emotional ramifications. Such deep-seated anguish and regret at perceived wrong choices from the past, arising from the frustrated mentality that there is always a far brighter fantastical future lying just out of reach, is prevailingly perceived as an unavoidable aspect of our human condition with ensuing severe emotional repercussions and dissatisfaction. A prime instance of this ingrained self-doubt is exhibited in The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, with enjambment in Prufrock’s rhetorical question “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” emphasising the tentative and indecisive approach he has taken to this potentially life-altering situation. It can accordingly be inferred that Prufrock is aware he does not have the courage to approach the woman of his desires, and even before taking any action is already experiencing the emotive ramifications of overwhelming regret and remorse. Prufrock’s embarrassment and lack of self-confidence in such matters are presented as having profound implications for his emotional state of consciousness, exhibited via the use of parentheses as he exclaims to himself “They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!'”. Consequently, personification of “the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!” conveys the measured passage of time after Prufrock’s fated indecision, in sharp contrast to the build-up of anguish and deeply emotional repentance at this missed opportunity. A similar result of emotions integrated into the human condition is ascertained in Guy de Maupassant’s All Over – Lormerin receives a timely reminder of the tender love he once revelled in, metaphorically “making the reopened wound of his passion bleed anew” as he yearns keenly for what is lost and can never truly be regained. Lormerin’s jarringly nostalgic memories of this past romance further exacerbate the regret and sense of loss he endures, as through asyndeton and vivid imagery “the image of this young girl pursued him, haunted him, quickened his heart, inflamed his blood” to evoke a resurgence of passion on a fundamentally primal level of the human condition. Such an underlying notion of inescapable regret as part of humanity is reinforced by Leunig’s contrasting use of black against white in the cartoon The Life You Lead, with this light and dark symbolising opposing outlooks on life and prior critical decisions made in regards to the innate human proclivity for contemplative self-reflection and criticism. From the dejected and sorrowful facial expression of the image’s central figure, it is apparent that this character is experiencing some degree of lament and sadness as he speculates in hindsight on actions taken throughout the course of his existence. Only from this viewpoint of retrospect is it possible to objectively assess the merits of our own personal successes and failings in life, allowing for a comparison of perpendicularly juxtaposed street signs indicating the inevitably disappointing “Life You Lead” against the infinitely more desirable “Life You Could Have Led”. Ultimately in All Over, the brutalising impacts of persistent regretful sentiment in an individual bring about complete dehumanisation and the loss of any constructive optimistic emotions, seen through repetition in Lormerin’s progressive decline to a stage where he is “crushed at the sight of himself, at the sight of his lamentable image”. Within the human condition, the detrimental effects of constant anxiety and deliberation over unchangeable choices made earlier in life are thus portrayed, through the interpretations of composers covering multiple text types, as having inseparable ties to our ingrained emotional responses of regret and contrition.
There are certain aspects of humankind’s collective existence that are undoubtedly applicable across an almost endless array of situations and manifestations, destined to pertain to every single individual within society during at least some point in their lifetime. Particularly relevant facets of the human condition in this respect incorporate the sheer dominating irrationality of potent love, interpersonal social relationships between human beings as a framework upon which society is built, and the irrepressible tendency to ponder regretfully over one’s position as a result of significant decisions. A consideration of T.S. Eliot’s The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Leunig’s The Life You Lead, and Guy de Maupassant’s All Over conclusively imparts the notion that the aforementioned concepts of humanity are inextricably and directly linked to our accompanying emotional condition.