The Love Song of J, Alfred Prufrock

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The poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” written by T.S. Eliot is a depiction of sadness and a disillusioned narrator. While reading this poem, one senses that the narrator is disturbed and has maybe given up hope, and that he feels he is just an actor in a tedious drama At the very beginning of the poem, Eliot uses a quote from Dante’s “Inferno”, preparing the poem’s reader to expect a vision of hell. This device seems to ask the reader to accept that what they are about to be told by the poem’s narrator was not supposed to be revealed to the living world, as Dante was exposed to horrors in the Inferno that were not supposed to be revealed to the world of the living. This comparison is frightening and intriguing, and casts a shadow on the poem and its narrator before it has even begun. J. Alfred Prufrock is anxious, self-concsious, and depressed.

The first half of the poem creates a sense of place. The narrator invites us to go “through certain half-deserted streets” on an evening he has just compared to an unconscious patient (4). To think of an evening as a corpselike event is disturbing, but effective in that the daytime is the time of the living, and the night time is the time of the dead. He is anxious and apprehensive, and evokes a sense of debauchery and shadows. Lines 15-22 compare the night’s fog to the actions of a typical cat, making the reader sense the mystery of a dark, foggy night in a familiar, tangible way. One might suppose that “In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo” refers to a room in a brothel, where the seedy women for hire talk about elevated art between Johns (13). The narrator creates a tension in the image of dark deserted streets and shady activities in the dark.

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...but the world of the living is too busy with the meaningless details of life to care what he has to say about it. This despair is evident in the repeated lines “That is not it at all/ That is not what I meant at all” (109).

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is hardly a love song at all. That irony is clear in that the narrator’s voice is anxious, self-conscious, and depressed. It seems he has wasted his life or that life was wasted on him, and he regrets not being born as a creature that lives on the bottom of the sea. The very last lines of the poem,

“we have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.” (29-131)

ask the reader to acknowledge that humanity has the capacity to imagine and create, and that it is sometimes the boredom of humanity that destroys that potential.
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