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Analysis and comments on The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

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Comment 54 of 824, added on February 11th, 2009 at 5:38 AM.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" T. S. Eliot

(Full name Thomas Stearns Eliot; also wrote under the pseudonyms Charles
Augustus Conybeare; Charles James Grimble, Reverend; Gus Krutzch; Muriel A.
Schwartz; J. A. D. Spence; Helen B. Trundlett) American-born English poet,
critic, essayist, dramatist, and editor.

The following entry presents criticism on Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock" (1915). For further information on Eliot's life and
career, see CLC, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 15, 24, 34, 41, 55, and
57.
INTRODUCTION

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is considered one of Eliot's finest
and most important works. With the help of Ezra Pound, the poem was
accepted for publication in Poetry in 1915—four years, it is believed,
after Eliot (1888–1965) completed it. Through this poem Eliot established
himself as a modern voice in literature, creating profoundly innovative,
erudite poetry which mixes classical references with industrial
twentieth-century images. It is the first work among many which would earn
him a place as one of the most important and revolutionary poets of the
twentieth century.
Plot and Major Characters

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a lyrical, dramatic monologue of a
middle-class male persona who inhabits a physically and spiritually bleak
environment. The title of the poem is misleading since it is neither a love
poem nor a song in the classical sense. Approximately 130 lines long, it
follows the ramblings of J. Alfred Prufrock, the would-be suitor of an
unnamed and nebulously developed woman. While Eliot provides little
description of Prufrock's person, he does reveal a great deal about
Prufrock's personality and state of mind.
Major Themes
Prufrock is full of self-doubts, with a pessimistic outlook on his future,
as well as the future of society and the world. This pessimistic view
renders him unable to declare his love to the unnamed woman. He describes
himself as "almost ridiculous," "almost … the Fool." Although aware of the
possibility of personal fulfillment, Prufrock is afraid to act, unable to
claim for himself a more meaningful existence. The poem also contains
numerous biting images of the industrial land-
T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
scape with its insidious "yellow fog," "narrow streets," "lonely men in
shirt-sleeves," and "soot that falls from chimneys." "Prufrock" is also
replete with classical references to such literary and historical figures
as John the Baptist, Lazarus, and Hamlet and to the literary works of
Hesiod, Andrew Marvell, Dante, and Jules Laforgue.
Critical Reception

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" has sparked tremendous interest and
dissension among literary scholars. It is considered by many to be one of
the principal poems of this century, and is listed with The Waste Land
(1922) and Four Quartets (1943) as Eliot's best work. Often analyzed by
line, incident or reference, the poem continues to confound scholars. Eliot
pioneered an innovative and often fragmentary style centered upon modernity
and the use of startling metaphors; Louis Untermeyer calls it "sensitive to
the pitch of concealment." Critics such as Robert M. Seiller, Elizabeth
Drew, George Williamson, Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren all argue
that Prufrock never articulates a question: he is too overwhelmed by
modernity and the state of his existence to formulate it. J. Peter Dyson
contends that Eliot utilizes a literary reference to Hamlet in which to
indirectly frame Prufrock's question. In a separate but related inquiry,
Bruce Hayman questions whether Prufrock is proposing marriage or making a
sexual proposition to the woman in the poem. Critics agree that in the end
Prufrock is too overwhelmed by the bleakness of his own life and his view
of the urban landscape to take any action, so paralyzed is he with fear and
uncertainty. Scholars have focused a great deal of energy on unraveling the
meaning of the literary references with which Eliot peppers the poem. There
is disagreement over the allusions to John the Baptist and Lazarus, and
argument over which Hamlet reference he employs. Several scholars have
marked Dostoevsky's influence on Eliot, although Eliot himself pointed out
that Crime and Punishment was not available to him when he wrote this poem.
Critics list among Eliot's influences Lord Alfred Tennyson, Henry James,
Matthew Arnold, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, and Laforgue.


azeem from Pakistan
Comment 53 of 824, added on February 11th, 2009 at 4:01 AM.

This poem was a little difficult to analyse, but once you’ve understood
the message you see what an insecure kind of man Prufrock is. We also see
that there are a lot of rhetorical questions asked especially about life
and death and Prufrock wondering if he worthy or of any significance. He
does not seem to think he is of great significance due to the fact that he
measures out his life with coffee spoons-“I have measured out my life with
coffee spoons”. This line can also show how ordinary, simple and boring his
life was referring to the coffee itself, because coffee is a very ordinary
thing.


Grace from Australia
Comment 52 of 824, added on February 11th, 2009 at 1:22 AM.

This poem is a very different type of poetey, we mostly read about love and
hate but this poem does not althought it is named "the love song of
J.Alfred Prufrock" it has no real love in it. He writes "and yet for a
hundred indecisions and for a hundred vision and revisions" meaning that
changes do happen and we ill make misakes and you can replay it over and
over again, and find that you could of done it many other different ways.
it is sad to see that this man in the poem sees the life has no meaning to
it, that he believes that he is just a background person in his own life,
he is very pessimistic. All he does is think not act. Something that never
goes well.

Heidi from Australia
Comment 51 of 824, added on February 8th, 2009 at 7:24 AM.

The line: till human voices wake us, and we drown, is a sober imagery out
from the etherized state of Prufrock, who dragged us into his
existentialist point of view, sometimes a self-confessed loser who wins his
cause by a kind of transcendence. It's like you're dreaming dreams, bouyed
on the water, and realizing that you are afloat, suddenly woke up and
struggled to avoid sinking--on the real world! I enjoyed this image a lot
and is a kind of reminder for me to pinch myself into getting my feet back
on the ground, lest I get drowned.

wilmar from Philippines
Comment 50 of 824, added on February 5th, 2009 at 7:47 PM.

This poem is a very difficult poem to analyze but i think that he is just
very afraid of reality and modernism. He doesnt realise that there is much
in life that he is pessimistic against and will never get to feel or see
the joy of because of this attitude.

Chloe from Australia
Comment 49 of 824, added on May 9th, 2007 at 3:59 PM.

this poem really expresses his love............. his fellings

TRACIE from United States
Comment 48 of 824, added on March 1st, 2007 at 4:47 PM.

I agree with Alicia from the U.K. about Prufrock being one who is indeed
very separate and isolated from society. He is afraid to take part, and
before he will ever work up the guts to take part, he will grow old. It's
very sad; he wants to go "through certain half deserted streets" and just
sort of wonder and be romantically content, but he is not one to take part
in life. These mermaids will not sing to him because he is not worthy.
" there will be time, there will be time to prepare a face to meet the
faces that you meet; there will be atime to murder and create..time for you
and time for me"
I think that Prufrock is taking the time that there really is for
granted;he is telling himself he has more time than he really does have as
if to comfort himself in a way. Although there is time, that time passes
but because he is scared to be apart of the world and to make a difference,
Prufrock lets that time pass him by.


Tori from United States
Comment 47 of 824, added on April 16th, 2006 at 4:15 AM.

Do you know if there are any critical essay o Prufrock available on-line? I
need some material for my paper on metaphors and metonymies of the poem. I
have actually nearly finished writing, but I do not have any relevant
source for supporting my arguments...:o/

Luthi from Czech Republic
Comment 46 of 824, added on March 31st, 2006 at 2:49 PM.

Yes it's about growing old, insecurity, loneliness, but it also speaks to
his enormous vanity.

To Prufrock, revealing his feelings is akin to 'squeezing the universe into
a ball', or like 'Lazarus, come from the dead'. He has 'wept and fasted,
wept and prayed' over what? Telling someone he is interested in her???
'Shall I part my hair behind?', so he has 'a bald spot in the middle' of
his hair? Come on, man! Prufrock is so consumed with himself that we learn
nothing about the woman he can't reveal himself to.

The love song of Prufrock is a song to himself.

Casey from United States
Comment 45 of 824, added on March 28th, 2006 at 10:00 PM.

I think this poem is directly affected by the events of the time. You have
to remember that this was written during World War one. As a result I
think Eliot is questioning society and mortality through the poem as a
result of what must have seemed at the time the destruction of humanity.
It seems like he alludes to this idea when talking about the yellow smoke
rubbing along the window panes. This represents the gas being used in the
trenches. It is a physical manifestation of the figurative way war is
creeping into everyday life. I agree with other peoples interpretations,
but I just thought this could be a cause to why Eliot is writting the poem.

keith from United States

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Information about The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Poet: T.S. Eliot
Poem: 1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Volume: Prufrock and Other Observations
Year: 1917
Added: Jan 31 2004
Viewed: 291 times


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