Prufrock begins his “Love” song with a peculiar quote from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It reads: “If I believed that my answer were to a person who could ever return to the world, this flame would no longer quiver. But because no one ever returned from this depth, if what I hear is true, without fear of infamy, I answer you.” In the Divine Comedy these lines are spoken by a damned soul who had sought absolution before committing a crime. I think that Eliot chose this quote to show that Prufrock is also looking for absolution, but for what he is unsure.
“Let us go then, you and I, (1).” We are being offered an invitation into Prufrock’s world. As you read on you see what Prufrock sees and how he perceives it. Take for example, line 3, where he says “Like a patient etherized upon a table;”. On the line before he is describing the evening sky. Prufrock is feeling oppressed by the night sky, or maybe the world in general. The word “etherized” makes me think he feels helpless. Then you pass by cheap hotels, and restaurants with sawdust floors. Prufrock seems to be getting annoyed when he says, “Streets that follow like a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent” (8-9). Will these streets never end? Is it their goal to annoy me? Are questions I can imagine him asking himself. Then the whimsy kicks in. Do these streets lead to one overwhelming question? “Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’” (11) Prufrock seems to be pleading. Whatever you do, don’t ask me that question. There is no choice, whatever the destination, we must accompany him and we must make our “visit”.
“In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo” (13-14). We have arrived at o...
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...t a bit obtuse;/At times, indeed, almost ridiculous-/ Almost, at times, the Fool” (112-119)
Prufrock is describing himself as he sees himself. Honestly, and without glory. That is who HE is. In the next two lines we see his weariness with his current lifestyle. He just wants to sit back and relax. Not worry about what everyone else thinks.
He has seen social bells sing to each other, but not to him. He has seen them come and go and grow old in style. That is not what he wants.
“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/ By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown,/ Till human voices wake us, and we drown” (129-131). We live in the delusional social world. Surrounded by beauties of all kinds. Eventually, the beauty fades and we realize what is important in life, but usually by then we are “drowning” or dying and don’t have the time to enjoy it.
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