The Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock- An Analysis

by Julian Peters

The Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock, depicts the fragility and futility of the human existence through Prufrock’s anxious and uncertain thoughts. This notion is evident in the lines”There will be time to wonder Do i dare? and do i dare? Time to turn back and descend the stair” the rhyming syntax and rhetorical questions emulates Prufrock’s nervous thoughts and fear of being scrutinized. His anxious thoughts remind him of his mortality,“they will say how his hair is growing thin!… they will say but how his arms and legs are thin!” the ambiguity created through the repetition of “they” illustrate the irrationality of his thoughts while the use of exclamation and high modality language create a sardonic and mocking tone to further reinforce his feelings of anxiety and fear of being ridiculed. The juxtaposition of trivial and mundane societal concerns such as fear of being judged with Prufrock’s mortality and the fragility of his psyche reinforces the futility of existence as it as it emphasises that while individuals are occupied with modern trivialities, death is always inevitable.

In The Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock; Eliot explores the notion that individuals suppress the futility of urban life with a superficial modern facade. Individuals talk of renaissance art and uphold the pretence of knowledge. This is evident in the lines “in the room the women come and go talking of michelangelo” the repetition of this rhyming phrase emphasises the shallowness and artificiality of their contemporary conversations and its lack of emotional depth. They are stuck in an interminable cycle of social conversation and gatherings; to distract themselves from the sordid , bleak reality of their world . “sawdust restaurants with oyster shells streets that follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent” the vivid imagery highlights the grimy and squalid nature of urban society and the metaphor reinforces the monotonous and degrading nature of urban life. This further reinforces the the pointlessness of life as the actions of the bourgeois keeps them distracted from the reality of their bleak world.

In The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock’s inability to shatter the superficial facade of the Bourgeoisie reinforces the futility of life. This notion is evident in the lines, “Should I, after tea and cake and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” His use of rhetorical question and the elongated syntax through the repetition of “and” emphasises his procrastination at asking the “overwhelming question ”He dismisses the idea and deems it as inappropriate and pointless to converse with intellectually challenging ideas;“if one… should say that is not it at all that is not what i meant at all ”His ideas that don’t suit the context of the trivial party of “tea and cake and ices” . His vision would be incommunicable, the women at the gathering live in their own illusioned state “talking of michelangelo” and would misunderstand his question. Prufrock is isolated from any meaningful human interaction, the women are too suppressed by their superficial modern facade, and live in their own parallel realities, never intersecting with Prufrock in the real world . This lack of any human interaction and the Bourgeoisie desperate attempts to distance themselves from the bleak nature of reality further reinforces the futility of existence.

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