Type: Exploratory
Pages: 3 | Words: 878
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock illustrates the insecurity of Prufrock. The poem is comprised of text which is the voice of a neurotic, paranoid modern man – Prufrock – who is obsessed with time, mortality, and social conduct. Eliot’s meaning in ‘Prufrock’ is to describe aspects of the Modern world. I will explain how we get this impression of Prufrock and more through Eliot’s use of linguistic techniques. Techniques such as symbolism, repetition, rhetorical questions, allusions or intertextual references, metaphors and similes, rhyme, irony and more. Before even reading the poem we’re faced with the symbolic title, particularly the word ‘Prufrock’. By this Eliot is implying a characteristic of this persona, that he has a sort of prude-in-a-frock effeminacy. The effeminacy is a part of Prufrock’s nature .so its implication is adding to Eliot’s construction of the modern, neurotic individual. Prufrock is the poem’s speaker, seems to be addressing a potential lover, with whom he would like to “force the moment to its crisis” by somehow consummating their relationship. But Prufrock knows too much of life to “dare” an approach to the woman: In his mind he hears the comments others make about his inadequacies, and he chides himself for “presuming” emotional interaction could be possible at all.

The design of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is such that, the reader has to draw conclusions from clues given in dramatic monologue adding meaning and rewards the reader. Use of an epigraph heightens the reward and demonstrates that J. Alfred Prufrock cannot speak in life as he does in the poem. Through use of these techniques, poem is both subtle and effective at generalizing the insecurity of Prufrock. The poem is set as a monologue, since the speaker refers to a listener in the opening line as,

“You:” “Let us go then, you and I,” (l. 1)

This lets the reader know that what is stated is being spoken to another person. Since a dramatic monologue typically reveals character traits that the speaker is unaware of, Eliot uses this to give the reader a clue about how to read his poem,

“And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare? ” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair”

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) (ll. 37-40)

“And I have known the arms already; known them all-

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

Is it perfume from the dress

That makes me so digress?”(11.62-67)

Prufrock is afraid to speak to the women he sees because he feels that he will not speak well enough to have them interested in him, and his insecurity will not allow him to overcome this shyness. The women are young, as the references to “White” and “bare” indicate, and they are attractive to Prufrock. He is taken by their appearance, and it seems that he has had this problem before, since he has “known them already. He talks about confessing his love for her after tea and marmalade which made me think of her being a courtesan at Moulin Rouge.

The poem depicts a man with an overwhelming fear and insecurity about his situation, as Prufrock delivers a clue to this in each line. He convinces himself that there is time, so there is no need to rush into action. He asks if he can dare, and then has second thoughts and plans to “turn back” and leave the party. He is concerned with a bald spot and what people will say about it. He desires something very much, yet he is afraid to act.

“Prufrock” displays the two most important characteristics of Eliot’s early poetry. First, it is strongly influenced by the French Symbolists, like Mallarme, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire. The second defining characteristic of this poem is its use of fragmentation and juxtaposition.

The last line of the poem suggests that, when the world intrudes, when “human voices wake us,” the dream is shattered: “we drown.” With this single line, dismantles the romantic notion that poetic genius is all that is needed to triumph over the destructive, impersonal forces of the modern world. Finally Prufrock has a series of questions giving an open view to his unsuccessful attempts at women. His insecurities keep him from doing the things he wants to do and unable to express his true feelings to women. Prufrock ponders, “Should I begin” “Should I then presume”, and seems to know what he wants to say, but doesn’t have the confidence to put his feelings into words. He constantly self-introspects throughout the poem:” Do I dare?”(38), “So how should I presume?”(54) “Then how should I begin” (59) and the questions further drown him in his depths of isolation. Prufrock agonizes over his social actions, worrying over how others will see him. He thinks about women’s arms and perfume, but does not know how to act. The day passes at a social engagement but he cannot gather the strength to act, and he admits that he is afraid. With further self torture through the poem, Elliot at the end gives us readers a caution to not see life go by without taking the risk of asking and approaching the challenges that will eventually place our significance in society.

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