Eliot begins the poem with an epigraph from Dante's Inferno. "If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but as no one has ever returned alive from this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy," (CowboyJunkies.com). These words, spoken to Dante, signify an important aspect of Eliot's poem--Prufrock's confused vacillation and neurotic ambiguity are entirely contained within his own mind, allowing them to occur without concern for the reaction of peers. Eliot chooses to emphasize the insecure nature of his character Prufrock throughout the text, exemplified in his self-questioning, "Do I dare to turn back and ascend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hairthey will say: How his hair is growing thin!'" This concern over social perception strengthens the importance of the introductory message: Prufrock is desperately afraid of being rejected, and if he thought that his nervous wonderings would be heard by "someone who would return to Earth", or could repeat them to others, he would abandon them completely and "remain without further movement;" but as no one has ever heard these thoughts, he can think them freely "with no fear of infamy."
Prufrock's love song' begins with a barrage of imagery that... [continues]
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