The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


The poem is principally scrutiny of the tormented psyche of the ideal contemporary man neurotic, overeducated, emotionally stilted, and eloquent. Prufrock, the poem’s narrator, appears to be speaking to a possible lover, whom he would love to compel the instance to its crisis by in some way consummating their bond. However, Prufrock discerns too much in regard to life to challenge an approach to the lady. In his psyche, he hears the remarks others make in relation to his shortfalls, and he reprimands himself for imagining sentimental interaction would be possible in any way. The poem progresses from a succession of fairly tangible, for Eliot, physical background, a cityscape, the illustrious patient etherized on a table, and a number of interiors. These interiors include ladies’ limbs in the lamplight, fireplaces, coffee spoons, to a progression of vague oceanic images that convey Prufrock’s sentimental detachment from the world, as familiarizes himself with his mediocre status. Prufrock is influential for its assortment of intellectual orientation and also for the clarity of character attained (Maxwell 25).

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According to Abrams (4), the poem assumes several forms in that Prufrock is a deviation on the theatrical monologue, a poem brand in style with Eliot’s predecessors. Theatrical monologues are comparable to soliloquies in drama. Three things characterize the theatrical monologue. Primarily, they are the remarks of a specific character, not the lyricist, at an instance in time. The monologue is particularly directed at listeners or a listener whose attendance is not expressly referenced but is simply suggested in the words of the speaker. The primary focal point is the revelation and development of the character of the speaker. Eliot modernizes the structure by eliminating the oblique addressees and focusing on the isolation and interiority of Prufrock. This poem’s epigraph depicts Prufrock’s model listener as one who is lost, just like the narrator, and will by no means, betray to humanity the content of Prufrock’s current confessions. In the world that is described by Prufrock, although, no such compassionate personality exists, and he should, therefore, be contented with quiet reflection. In its spotlight on character and its theatrical sensibility, Prufrock expects Eliot’s later, theatrical works.

According to Knapp (30), the poem commences with a sense of sarcasm in its heading. The author observes that the rationale of calling this poem a Love Song is founded in the satire that it would by no means be sung, that Prufrock would on no account dare to express his feelings. Whereas another satirical contemplation is that, Prufrock sings to himself. The title’s sarcasm is highlighted by the epigram derived from the poem; Dante’s Inferno, which heads the initial lines in the poem. Another illustration of sarcasm comes afterward in the poem when Prufrock demonstrates his apprehension of death. This passage merges the drama of terror with Eliot’s humorist portrayal of death as the perpetual Footman who holds Prufrock’s coat and scoffs. At the conclusion of the poem, Prufrock mourns his aging, and he paradoxically becomes anxious with superficial features of old age. Eliot elucidates throughout his love story a number of things that are evident in relation to British culture. In the initial verse, it is straightforward to notice the varied and nuanced way of British society. His portrayal of the commencement of the evening demonstrates that, in Britain, there are noticeable disparities in the lifestyle of the diverse classes.

According to Burton (87), the poem’s imagery is powerful beginning from the first line whereby the evening spread is unavoidably taken up by darkness, as old age ought to surrender to death. Nevertheless, the evening is figuratively transformed into a drugged patient on a table and unable of any activity as if set for figurative surgery. Metaphors that denote old age and immobility saturate the poem. For illustration, he employs the images of an inactive cat to denote the twilight of the year, the rite of tea and toast in addition to old women chatting of Michelangelo to denote the actions of the aged, in addition to, the melody from a room beyond, to indicate Prufrock’s detachment from contemporary culture.


The four summaries assist the reader in understanding the rhyme design of the poem which is asymmetrical but not arbitrary. Whereas fragments of the poem may bear a resemblance to free verse, in realism, Prufrock is a cautiously structured permutation of poetic structures. The snippets of rhyme become increasingly evident when the poem is loudly read. One of the most outstanding formal uniqueness of this work is the utilization of refrains, such as, Prufrock’s repeated return to the ladies who come and go, speaking about Michelangelo as well as his recurring questionings. These refer to an earlier lyrical tradition and assist Eliot in describing the consciousness of a contemporary, neurotic person. Prufrock’s possessiveness is aesthetic, although it is also a sign of isolation and compulsiveness. Another significant formal characteristic is the utilization of pieces of sonnet form, mainly at the poem’s ending. The are three three-lined stanzas that are rhymed as the end of a Petrarchan sonnet might be, but their anti-romantic content, pessimistic, in addition to the desolate interjection, generates a contrast that remarks bitterly on the desolation of modernity.




Works Cited

Abrams, M.H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2.  Atlanta: W Norton & Co        Inc. 1999. Print.

Burton, R. T.S. Eliot. New York: Frederick Ungar. 2002. Print.

Knapp, J. Eliot’s Prufrock & the Structure of Contemporary Poetry. New York: Oxford U.P.


Maxwell, D. T.S. Eliot’s Poetry. London: Routledge. 2000. Print.


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