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...
... middle of paper ...
.... 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
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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