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LBianchin - "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Analysis
[author: Luca Bianchin - postdate: 2008-01-03]

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a short poem that represents the dramatic monologue of a middle-age person: Prufrock.

Starting analyzing the title the reader can single out two elements: from one side you have the "Love song" that will probably refer to the Romantic style. The two words: love as a typical Romantic theme and song that in poetry could be referred to a lyrical form of poetry.
On the other side the poet chooses a name less poetic as possible for his character: it is very long and full of harsh sounds (Alfred Profrock). The whole poem will insist on that juxtaposition between romantic and epic tunes and their negation in a materialistic perspective.

The poem starts with reference to Dante's Inferno Canto XXVII (Eliot often uses quotations) in which Guido da Montefeltro tells Dante about his vicissitudes being sure that Dante is not going to return among the living people: therefore he confesses what you don't usually tell other people. And so  does Prufrock along the poem.
The first two lines of the poem seem to refer to a Romantic start.  As a matter of fact the reader can notice the rhyme and the poetic images of the evening in the hugeness of the sky. The subject is a plural first person thus you can conclude it is a love song. But in the third line everything is turned upside down and you understand that the "you" to which the poet talks to isn't the loved person, but his own conscience. He has not power in front of Modern life, he lies "upon a table" and with his imagination takes his consciousness back to a material cityscape, that could probably be the one in which he manages his life.


The image provided is the one of a city reduced to "half-desert streets, cheap hotels, sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells". In the tedious routine (in assonance with insidious) nothing keeps value, also the oyster-shells put in that very situation, sum up a ridiculous intent because they lose their value as the Modern society modified a lot of believes that previously had got an important value.


Everything is ridiculous: also Prufrock's intent seems to be the only spiritual aspect in a material world.

The setting of the poem is in line with the themes treated. The dully atmosphere of an October night has probably the function of underlining the sadness of Prufrock's condition.

When referring to the "overwhelming question" of Prufrock the poet waits for an answer introducing the leit motiv of the text: in a room without importance some women trivialize Michelangelo. This could imply that the world around Prufrock only disturbs his thoughts, because all what people seem to apppreciate is meaningless.

What only matters is his /her  individual point of view in a material world where also the fog, that seems to come directly from London needs to rub and to lick, as a cat. Moreover the second paragraph starts with an anaphoric structure in order to provide the sense of oppressiveness once more.

In such great wait, in the third stanza,   Prufrock longs for more time: the word time is here repeated eight times. The verb tenses are in the future, moreover the verb tense shows an impersonal use: all such devices create a disruption between realty and expectations that  he expects something in order to face the other people, and most of all his beloved.

All that doesn't deserve the end he will give. The last two lines "before the taking of toast and tea" are in rhyme and the rhetorical figure of  the anaphor is used. Such a poetic expression doesn't confirm what will come out in the end: toast and tea are a every-day stuff, you don't need to have indecisions, visions and revisions. But from the perspective of a modern individual the fact could be the most important for one's life.

The fourth stanza recalls the invocation for more time by Prufrock who isn't able to take a decisions. At the same time he grows old (symbols are the hair and the legs that become thinner), so he wonders if there is still time to "disturb the universe" with his longed love.


Even if he is described asa person who becomes older, he has the same problems of an adolescent in experiencing its feelings. He is aware to have passed a life without meaning, except for the "coffee spoons" while the standard conventions would suggest this is a paradox.

Prufrock is aware of condition of man when he considers all the phrases he said useless, said just to conform to society.


In a further paragraph he wonders about the reason for his fears, but his answer is rather vague: it is not a dress, so a mask to worry him, but probably the importance he gives to his feelings. He discovers himself afraid, because although he is aware of his condition, he is not a prophet, therefore he doesn't know about  his future. After all the small things lived with the person he loves, nothing remains to him but his sadness.  At the end of two paragraphs he repeats twice "That is not what I meant at all, That is not it at all".

Prufrock needs more, but he has not the will to ask: he is not Prince Hamlet, but he prefers to be a servant "glad to be of use". Therefore he well represents the apathy which kept Modern man thus becoming an anti-hero because he knows what he wants, but he is afraid and he is  not able to face his situation.

Now Prufrock listens to the voice of time: he gets closer to death day after day, and in the future he will not dare to eat a peach (maybe the symbol for his sweet love), and the mermaids will not sing for him, leaving him in his solitude, in the middle of an ocean (the last paragraph has the semantic field of the sea, which represents irrationality) of triviality in which he will be obliged to drown.
Prufrock is an anti-hero also because he doesn't reach is object of love. This feeling is not conventionally referred to a middle-age person, but Eliot overturns the traditional standards as a response to the problems of the Modern Age. Problems that in Prufrock do not seem to find a solution.


Very good.