In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", written by T. S. Elliot in 1917, J. Alfred Prufrock makes the reader privy to his innermost thoughts on an evening out. Prufrock wants to lead the reader to an overwhelming question, raising expectations, but he is a bitterly disappointing man; he never asks the question. He lacks self-esteem, women are intimidating to him, and he is too much of a coward to ever be successful with women. The title is "The Love Song,", not "A Love Song." So whenever Prufrock is around women, he behaves the same way. He always has and always will. Because of his inability to change he will die a lonely man.
Courting a woman includes trying to project a positive image of yourself. J. Alfred Prufrock's low self-esteem projects only negative images. First of all, he does not value his life, even though he refers to it as "the universe" (46), for it can be "measured out ...with coffee spoons" (51). Prufrock himself admits his love life is not leading anywhere. In the middle of trying to come up with the right words, to sweep a lady off her feet, he compares himself to a crab: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas" (73-74). He moves sideways instead of forward. Prufrock's image of himself is his justification for not asking the overwhelming question. Who in her right mind would say yes to a man who is "ridiculous-- / Almost, at times, the Fool" (118-119). He is a man who thinks little of himself.
Those sides of Prufrock's character are shown only to the reader. The ladies have to judge him on his appearance and his behavior during the evening out. He is an older man, his hair is growing thin, and he is skinny. Eve...
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... peace of fruit. J. Alfred Prufrock lacks the courage to undertake anything with an uncertain outcome, such as relationships.
At the end, J. Alfred Prufrock lets the reader in on a daydream of his:
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown. (129-131)
His daydream is about mermaids, a sexual figment of imagination, and even in his daydream he is not successful; human voices wake him before anything happens. And J. Alfred Prufrock agrees:
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each
I do not think that they will sing to me. (124-125)
Elliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Compact 3rd ed. Eds. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1997. 781-785.
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