The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock is a poem by T.S. Eliot. The poem’s main character is J Alfred Prufrock. The poem is about Prufrock’s struggles with social anxiety and insecurity. The poem is also about Prufrock’s love for a woman who does not return his affections. The poem has been praised for its insight into the human condition and its use of symbolism and imagery. The poem is considered to be one of Eliot’s most important works.
In T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the protagonist, J. Alfred Prufrock, is defined as an anti-hero. His personality and identity are clearly evident in the poem, with a withdrawn and introverted guy who is socially challenged, self conscious, insecure about himself, yet yearns for others to recognize him.
Prufrock is also described as being indecisive and fearful. The poem is written in first person point of view, which allows readers to see Prufrock’s thoughts and feelings more clearly.
Prufrock is introduced in the poem as a “pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” (Eliot 1-2). The image of the crab suggests that Prufrock is timid and moves cautiously, hinting at his lack of self-confidence. It also shows that he is not very noticeable or important. The use of the word “silent” may suggest that Prufrock feels alone and misunderstood. He may feel that people do not listen to him or pay attention to him.
Prufrock is also seen as someone who is very self-conscious and lacks self-confidence. He is always thinking about what other people think of him and he is always worried about being judged. For example, he says that he “should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” (Eliot 1-2). The image of the crab suggests that Prufrock is timid and moves cautiously, hinting at his lack of self-confidence. It also shows that he is not very noticeable or important. The use of the word “silent” may suggest that Prufrock feels alone and misunderstood. He may feel that people do not listen to him or pay attention to him.
Prufrock is also indecisive, which is seen when he says “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (Eliot 4). This means that he has lived a very boring and uneventful life. He has not taken any risks or done anything exciting. The use of the word “coffee spoons” suggests that his life is very mundane and routine. It also suggests that he is not very ambitious or motivated.
Lastly, Prufrock is fearful. He is afraid of many things such as rejection, failure and death. He does not want to take risks because he does not want to fail. For example, he says “And I have known the eyes already, known them all— / The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, / And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin” (Eliot 5-7). The eyes represent people who are judging him and he is afraid of being judged. He does not want to be seen as a failure or be rejected by others.
In conclusion, J. Alfred Prufrock is seen as an anti-hero in the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. He is shy and introverted, extremely self-conscious, lacking in self-confidence and wallowing in self-pity. He is also indecisive and fearful. However, despite all of his flaws, he is still a relatable and sympathetic character.
The composer shows this through his use of allusions, powerful imagery to create vignettes of Prufrock’s life and the form of the poem as a disorderly train of thought, implying rather than telling.
Prufrock is an Anti-Hero, shown through his self-deprecating manner and indecisiveness. The title suggests that the poem is a love song, but it is actually about Prufrock’s struggles with intimacy and communication. The allusions to classical works such as Dante’s Inferno and Shakespeare’s Hamlet reflect Prufrock’s own feelings of isolation and insignificance. The powerful imagery used throughout the poem serves to create vivid snapshots of Prufrock’s life, from his lonely childhood to his present state of mind.
The chaotic form of the poem reflects the disordered thoughts of the main character, implying that he is not in control of his own life. Ultimately, T.S. Eliot uses a variety of literary devices to paint a portrait of a man who is struggling to connect with the world around him.
T.S. Eliot employs a variety of allusions in Prufrock to characterize and define his protagonist’s personality and identity. The first such allusion is to the biblical John the Baptist in lines 83-83; “Though I have seen my head (grown somewhat bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter.” This allusion refers to the fact that John the Baptist was put to death by Salome and then taken on a dishpan by Prufrock, implying that he sees himself in a similar role as she did.
The second allusion is in line 102, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” This allusion compares Prufrock to a crab or lobster, which are both seen as scavengers.
The third and final allusion is in lines 110-116, “And I have known the eyes already, known them all– The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?” In these lines, Eliot is referencing Dante’s Inferno, where sinners are hung on meat hooks and displayed for all to see. The comparison here is that Prufrock feels like he is on display for all the world to judge him and find him wanting.
By using these allusions, Eliot is able to give the reader a greater understanding of Prufrock’s character; someone who feels trapped, judged, and alone.
Another allusion to a biblical character was made with Lazarus, who went to hell and returned to life, as well as talking about it. This allusion, like the epigraph, is comparable to the poem. Prufrock sees himself as being in hell; he feels that because of his lack of social skills, he will never get out of it and so wants to talk about what he has seen there because he feels that no one will believe him if he doesn’t.
The difference is that Prufrock never comes out of his hell; he remains there for the rest of his life.
Eliot also alludes to Hamlet in this poem. The most obvious is when Prufrock says, “To have squeezed the universe into a ball/ To roll it toward some overwhelming question” (ll. 45-46). This is similar to Hamlet’s famous line, “To be, or not to be.” Both characters are questioning their existence and what it means. Prufrock goes on to say that he is not Hamlet, but he is like him in that he is indecisive and full of doubt. He wonders if he should act or just let life pass him by.