One major idea throughout The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is the suppression of an important question. The first the reader hears of this question is in stanza 1, lines 10-12, “To lead you to an overwhelming question . . . / Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’ / Let us go and make our visit” (10-12). Right in the beginning of the poem, Prufrock is suppressing this question by refusing to ask and refusing to answer when the “I” of this poem asks. Posing the question but not directly stating, or answering, the question is one way in which Eliot makes the reader of this poem, about anxiety, feel more anxious. We are constantly looking for answers in our daily lives and being led on like this is anxiety-inducing for J. Alfred Prufrock and the reader as well. The second mention of this question comes in stanza six when Prufrock states, “There will be time to murder and create / And time for all the works and days of hands / That lift and drop a question on your plate, / Time for you and time for me” (823). In this example, the way in which Prufrock avoids the question is by stating that there will be time in the future. This is one of the universal human concerns, or experiences, in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Even today, anxiety causes many to ignore the questions important to their lives, while pushing them off to be answered later. Eliot also points out how these heavy questions seem to come ...
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..., “I grow old … I grow old … / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. / Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” (825). Once again, ironically, Prufrock is avoiding his main question with much more trivial questions. In old age, he thought he would have time to focus on these important questions of life, but instead he has doubled down on the focus on the trivial in order to avoid his questions. The subject of the question scares him so much that it becomes more difficult to address it in old age. This is another example of a universal human condition which applies today. Many people put off some very important things in their life because of the belief that they will have time later. But what they don’t realize, is that old habits die hard, and if questions are actively ignored in youth, then they are likely to be actively ignored in old age.
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