Analysis of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

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“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot is a poem I would not recommend anyone still trying to hang on to his or her youth. T. S. Eliot’s poem, about a man named J. Alfred Prufrock, is a pessimistic poem looking at the seemingly wasted life of an aging man. The poem is told from the viewpoint of a very sad man named J. Alfred Prufrock. The poem takes place in the city of St. Louis, which T. S. Eliot does not portray in a very good light. T. S Eliot’s creation of a depressing mood, powerful metaphors, and the character of J. Alfred Prufrock all result in a very disheartening poem, not enjoyable to the middle-aged reader, especially male readers.

T. S. Eliot creates an uneasy mood from the very beginning. The first stanza of his poem describes the setting of the poem, “When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table;(lines 1-2)”. Here, Eliot could have picked any number of metaphors to describe the evening, but he chooses to describe it using the image of a person drugged and paralyzed on a table. At first, the choice of metaphor seems odd, but as you read it becomes clear that this particular metaphor was used to create mood. Had Eliot described the evening being spread out against the sky like a picnic blanket on the grass, we would have gotten a completely different vision of the night, and therefore a different mood. In the same stanza, Eliot goes on to note the “sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells (ln. 7)." Here the idea of sawdust shows us that the quality of the restaurants is not very high, and instead of having oysters—which are considered an aphrodisiac-- they only have the remnants—the oyster-shells. Eliot also goes on to tell us the “Streets that follow like a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent (l. 8-9)”. Here is another powerful metaphor; the streets to do not simply wind about like the loops in bows. These streets go back and forth like an argument with sinister intent.

The next stanza continues to criticize the city of St. Louis. T. S. Eliot writes, “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes/ The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes/ Licked it tongue into the corners of the evening (l. 15-17).” Eliot provides us with a picture of St. Louis that is very negative. The fog and the smoke is yellow, a color that is typically associated with illness. And the metaphor of a dog also contributes to the mood Eliot is creating. The dog is a not a clean, happy companion. This dog rubs its back and its muzzle into the window-panes. T. S. Eliot goes as far as to say that the city allows itself to be degraded, “Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from the chimneys (l. 19).” Here Eliot implies that St. Louis tolerates the soot falling onto its back. The next few stanzas shift to focus on the character of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Throughout the poem Eliot repeats the words ‘there will be time’. He does this to illustrate the fact that J. Alfred Prufrock is paralyzed and that he is not ready to deal with his situation yet. In line 38, Prufrock wonders, “Do I dare?” and we see that he is wondering if he dare go talk to the women. Prufrock describes what he thinks the women will think of him, “They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!” (l. 41).” Here we see some of Prufrock's insecurities. We also begin to picture him as an aging and balding man. He continues to describe his appearance, “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—(l. 42-43).” Prufrock is trying to hide as much of himself as can with his collar all the way up to his chin. We also see that J. Alfred Prufrock is trying hard to look just right. He is wearing a rich necktie, but with a simple pin, so he does not seem like he is trying to hard. T. S. Eliot does a wonderful job here of developing the character of J. Alfred Prufrock. Eliot shows us his insecurities and just how self-conscience...
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