"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" tells the story of a single character, a timid, middle-aged man. Prufrock is talking or thinking to himself. The epigraph, a dramatic speech taken from Dante's "Inferno," provides a key to Prufrock's nature. Like Dante's character Prufrock is in "hell," in this case a hell of his own feelings.
He is both the "you and I" of line one, pacing the city's grimy streets on his lonely walk. He observes the foggy evening settling down on him. Growing more and more hesitant he postpones the moment of his decision by telling himself "And indeed there will be time."
Prufrock is aware of his monotonous routines and is frustrated, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons":. He contemplates the aimless pattern of his divided and solitary self. He is a lover, yet he is unable to declare his love. Should a middle-aged man even think of making a proposal of love? "Do I dare/Disturb the universe?" he asks.
Prufrock knows the women in the saloons "known them all" and he presumes how they classify him and he feels he deserves the classification, because he has put on a face other than his own. "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." He has always done what he was socially supposed to do, instead of yielding to his own natural feelings. He wrestles with his desires to change his world and with his fear of their rejection. He imagines how foolish he would feel if he were to make his proposal only to discover that the woman had never thought of him as a possible lover; he imagines her brisk, cruel response; "That is not what I meant, at all."
He imagines that she will want his head on a platter and they did with the prophet John the Baptist. He also fears the ridicule and snickers of other men when she rejects him.
Prufrock imagines "And would it have been worth it, after all," and if she did not reject him it would bring...