T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is not a poem about love, at least in any traditional sense. Rather It is a collection of the fragmented thoughts of a man without self-esteem. Far from being about love, it is about one man's inability to love (himself or the world around him.) It is the cynical statement of a man who does not believe good things will ever happen to him, or that the world has anything to offer him. The title is bitterly ironic; Prufrock does not love any body, least of all himself, (no matter how much he might aspire to the ideal of romance and passion), nor does he believe that any one could ever love him. His own life is devoid of love, so in his bitterness he brands his work a "love song".
Although the poem addresses the reader directly, saying, "Let us go then, you and I,"1 Prufrock is really just talking to himself. His is a tale of shame and insecurity that he would never dare share with another human being. The epigraph graphically illustrates this; being a passage from Dante's "Inferno"....
"If I thought my reply would be to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but as no one has ever returned from this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy."2
When one considers the poem in the light of this prologue, one must see that Prufrock is basically telling the tale of his isolation and living hell, but without shame because he believes his words will never be heard. He speaks to himself, and poses questions to himself as many do when they are grappling internally with issues and problems of their own.
I wish to discuss two main thread...
... middle of paper ...
...nse it is indeed a song about love, but it is not a "love song" in the traditional sense. "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" is not radio friendly mainstream love.
Eliot, T. S., "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", in Leonard, John, Ed., Seven Centuries of Poetry in English, Third Ed., Melbourne: Oxford, 1994, pp.128-31.
1 Eliot, T. S., "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", in Leonard, John, Ed., Seven Centuries of Poetry in English, Third Ed., Melbourne: Oxford, 1994, pp.128-31, l. 1. All subsequent line numbers refer to this text.
2 Leonard, p. 128.
3 ll. 13-14, 35-36.
4 ll. 32-33.
5 ll. 38, 45, 122.
6 ll. 45-46.
7 l. 122.
8 ll. 97, 110.
9 l. 55.
10 ll. 73-74.
11 l. 34.
12 l. 51.
13 l. 60.
14 l. 81.
15 l. 85.
16 l. 84.
17 ll. 87, 99.
18 ll. 129-131.
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