The Pitiful Prufrock of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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The Pitiful Prufrock of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," is a melancholy poem

of one man's frustrated search to find the meaning of his existence. The

speaker's strong use of imagery contributes to the poems theme of communion and


The Poem begins with an invitation from Prufrock to follow him

through his self-examination. The imagery of this invitation begins with a

startling simile, "Let us go then you and I/ When the evening is spread out

against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table." This simile literally

describes the evening sky, but functions on another level. Prufrock's

description of the "etherised" evening indicates an altering of perception, and

an altering of time, which creates a dreamlike quality throughout the poem.

This dreamlike quality is supported throughout the poem with the "yellow fog"

that contributes to the slowed-down-etherised feeling of the poem. Time and

perception are effectively "etherised" in this poem.

It is almost as if the

poem is a suspended moment of realization of one man's life, "spread out against

the sky". The imagery of the patient represents Prufrock's self-examination.

Furthermore, the imagery of the "etherised patient" denotes a person waiting for

treatment. It seems this treatment will be Prufrock's examination of himself and

his life. Prufrock repeats his invitation and asks the reader to follow him

through a cold and lonely setting that seems to be the Prufrock's domain. The

imagery of the journey through the city is described as pointed to lead the

reader (and more accurat...

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.... He knows the approval he covets

comes from a frivolous, futile, class of people. He has heard them talk for

years and knows only fashion, appearance, art, and style are deemed worthy of

discussion. In fact, he listened so long he can't hear there voices anymore.

He can only hear "voices dying with a dying fall," not unlike the

indistinguishable hum of music playing in another room. But this is fine with

him, because he and his world are once again at a comfortable place.

Finally and permanently, Prufrock accepts that he will never be a

prophet like Lazarus or a prince like Hamlet, and he slips into the safety of a

fantasy world.

Works Consulted:

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Vol. 2. ed. M. H. Abrams New York, London: Norton, 1993.

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