An Uncanny Coincidence

Eliot may not be American in the technical sense, but I snuck him into the curriculum this year because Prufrock is such an interesting foil for Gatsby.  We read it in class the other day; much to my surprise and delight, the students were almost as taken with him as I am.

So I spontaneously assigned them a biography for homework.  Who was Prufrock?  Why was he so filled with malaise and uncertainty?  What had made him so "deferential, glad to be of use / politic, cautious and meticulous / full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse"?

Students love to make up stories (see "Why don't you have your homework?"), so their assignments came back amusing, depressing and surprisingly intuitive.  Two students (not friends) reached the exact same conclusion: Poor J.'s sister had died in a tragic accident when he was a boy.  He was never the same, they wrote; he always blamed himself and bitterly mourned the untimely loss.

The names they chose for this fictional, ill-fated younger sibling?  Emily and Abigail.