Essay: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, it speaks of a middle-class male who is trying to deal with internal issues he has with himself. The character in the poem (Prufrock) is portrayed as being self-conscious, shy, and having a fear of rejection. Throughout the poem Prufrock states many excuses for himself and eventually talks himself out of confronting the girl he likes because of his fear of rejection. He is incapable of expressing his emotions and desires to her. At the end of the poem he is paralyzed by his self-consciousness and fears and allows this to override his want for the girl causing him to be alone. Although Prufrock is full of self-doubts, he has a pessimistic outlook on his future and the future of the society.
From the beginning of the poem I got a sense of sadness that was going to happen as the poem grew to a close because of the way Prufrock was being characterized. Prufrock allows his pessimism to toy with his mind and leave him “unfit” for love. He is afraid to act out on his emotions and claim a more meaningful life for himself. Because of his self-consciousness, Prufrock develops a social awkwardness which causes him to imagine women talking about the “bald spot in the middle of his hair (line 40)” and “how his arms and legs are thin (line 44)” rather than them speaking on his wealth. With Prufrock having these thoughts it suggests to reader that he thinks less of himself and does not think he is worthy enough to be a positive topic of conversation within the women that he likes.

Prufrock attends a tea party and mentions the women that come and go talking of Michelangelo. I think the importance of this party is that it shows how he focuses on the beautiful women in the party and wishes that he had enough courage to approach them. In detail, he speaks about the appearance of the women and the scent of their perfumes and later mentions that these details about the women are intimidating. This is important because he further explains his fear of rejection and why he could never gain confidence to talk to these women. I feel as if Prufrock thinks that he is not good enough for those women for whatever reason and that they deserve someone that is much more better than he is. Often times we as people worry ourselves because of our own self-doubts. We allow the negative thoughts that we have about ourselves control us and eventually we begin to think that the people we interact with think of us in those same ways. Having this self-doubt is keeping Prufrock from giving himself the credit and confidence that he needs and deserves.

Another characteristic I picked up about Prufrock was that he allows his fear of rejection to have a strong hold on him. In line 26, “there will be time” refers to a biblical phrase in Ecclesiastes that says “Man cannot hit on the right time to act”. This passage is often giving in sermon in a time of comfort and reassuring such as funerals. I think that this reference is depicting that Prufrock has lost his masculinity because he does not have the normal confidence that assertive males normally have. Throughout the poem Prufrock repeats this phrase multiple times to try to convince himself that he will have time in the future to approach the women that he finds attractive. However, in doing this, he is only procrastinating because of his fear of how the women will react to him approaching them and confessing his feelings and thoughts to them. As the poem grows old Prufrock begins to question himself by saying “After the sunset and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets/ After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor/ And this, and so much more … would it have been worthwhile” (lines 101-103, 106). I feel as if Prufrock is questioning his efforts to express his emotions to those women. He is wondering if he did end up confessing his likes and the women rejects him was it even worth it (his overwhelming question). This type of negative thinking shows that he allows his fear of rejection to weigh him down.

The third reason that I found fitting to Prufrocks failure with the women he likes is his subconscious fear of consequences. In lines 45 through 48 Prufrock asks himself “Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse”. When analyzing this statement, I found it as Prufrock worrying about the greater consequences that could come about from him indulging in a relationship. It also indicated that Prufrocks fear of having to deal with consequences of his actions is taking over him so easily that he revises them to the point where they will be nonexistent. I feel that Prufrock wants more and wants to be better and have more confidence in himself but on the same token because he is so socially awkward that he is fine with staying out of the spotlight.

There is also a line in this poem that speaks on how a fool’s mistakes are minimal because he is expected to make mistakes. In lines 110-119 there is a reference to Shakespeare. “No I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be/ Am an attendant Lord, one that will do/ To swell a progress, start a scene or two/ Advise the prince withal an easy tool/ Deferential glad to be of use/ Politic, cautious, and meticulous/ Full of high sentence but a bit obtuse/ At times indeed almost ridiculous/ Almost, at times, the Fool”. This reference suggested that Prufrock is not capable of having the responsibility of dealing with extreme consequences.

Eliot’s usage of metaphors and imagery play an important role in this poem. In the third stanza Eliot describes a cat as “rubbing its back upon the window pane, and licking its tongue into the corners of the evening”. By nature, cats are not very friendly, it is dogs that are describe as being man’s best friend. Eliot is describing the cat to be like Prufrock. Prufrock has a difficult time socializing with others and tries to talk himself into gaining the courage to talk to a girl. Towards the end of stanza 3, the cat eventually falls asleep and in the same way Prufrock and the cat did not productive to help their situations.

All in all, Prufrock is bound to fail when it comes to love and expressing his emotions to women that he is attracted by. If he learned to have confidence in himself and just started a simple conversation with someone it would probably get him very far. With Prufrock being so distraught and scared of rejection he will never get anywhere and will always be alone. Everyone in life experiences failure in some form or fashion but the failure is not what matters, what really matters is the way we recover from the failure and rejection.

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