Analysis of T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Analysis of T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' demonstrates the effects of social and economic

pressure in the life of a Victorian man. T.S. Eliot shows us, in an ironic monologue, how the

reality of age and social position paralyzes his character with fear. The poem opens with six lines

from Dante?s ?Infernio?. This particular stanza explains that the speaker is in hell and the message

can only be told to someone else in hell. The speaker tells us that it is OK for the listener to hear

the message, since in order to hear you must already be in hell and no one ever returns from there.

So the message will never leave. I believe Eliot uses this message to infer that only a reader who

understands the loneliness and desperation of Prufrock can truly understand the poem. However,

in my research, I have found as many different interpretations of the poem as I have found

readers. Most agree; however, that Prufrock is speaking to the reader when he says ?you and

I?(Line 1). Many readers also agree that Prufrock is a lonely man, but what type of company he

desires seems to vary greatly. Interpretations include sex, social company, long term love, and

even death. I believe Prufrock yearns for the sense of belonging, both with a female and with his

society. He struggles with issues of sex, age and social change.

The beginning lines of the poem(1-25) paint for a very descriptive picture of the street

where Prufrock is walking. It also alerts the reader of Prufrock?s distaste for this area and this

society. He describes it as ?have deserted?,?muttering?.?one-night cheap hotels? and ?sawdust

restaurants?.(5-7) He contrasts that with his destination of a ?room where women come and

go/Talking of Michelangelo?(13&14). Prufrock doesn?t give the reader much insight into his

thoughts until line 26. From this line forward, we get a glimpse of what it must be like to be

Prufrock. He tells us ?There will be time, there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces

that you meet?(27-28), indicating repression. He must ?prepare? himself mentally to be able to

put on the correct social image before he makes his ?visit?(12). The rest of the poem simply

reinforces his struggle between the way he would like to be and the reality of his life. He begins to

ponder the ?overwhelming question?(11) ...

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...e is ?almost ridiculous--/ Almost, at times,

the Fool.?(118-119)

Although many of the comments and interpretations of ?The Love Song of J. Alfred

Prufrock? that I have read seem to believe that the last 4 stanzas are a sign that he may break out

of his shell. I believe it is the surrender of all hope and the recognition of the inconceivability of

his desires. I think lines 120-130 are Prufrock?s way of telling us of the dream of youth that he

will leave behind. He will not ?wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled?(121) nor ?wear flannel

trousers, and walk upon the beach.? These are the customs and actions of young passionate men.

Men whose physical appearance and less stuffy lifestyle will attract the ?mermaids?(124). He

concedes ?I do not think that they will sing to me.?(125) Prufrock leaves us with the thought of

how life and society can force us from our dreams and sink us with reality. ?We have lingered in

the chambers of the sea/ By sea-girls wreathed with seeweed red and brown/ Till human voices

wake us, and we drown.?(129-131)

Works Cited:

Eliot, T. S. ?The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.? Collected Poems 1909-1962 . New York: Harcourt Brace, 1963.
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