Explication Of “The Love Song Of J. Alfred PrufrockExplication of “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the author is establishing the trouble the narrator is having dealing with middle age. Prufrock(the narrator) believes that age is a burden and is deeply troubled by it.. His love of some women cannot be because he feels the prime of his life is over. His preoccupation with the passing of time characterizes the fear of aging he has. The poem deals with the aging and fears associated with it of the narrator. The themes of insecurity and time are concentrated on. This insecurity is definitely a hindrance for him. It holds him back from doing the things he wishes to do. This is the sort of characteristic that makes Alfred into a tragic, doomed character. He will not find happiness until he finds self-assurance within himself. The repetition of words like vision and revision, show his feelings of inadequacy in communicating with the people around him.
The rhyme scheme Elliot uses in this poem depicts the disenchanted and confused mind of the narrator. The poem is written using a non-uniform meter and rhyme. Various stanzas are not of uniform length. This method is probably used to represent the mood and feelings in the verse. Prufrock is feeling confused and overwhelmed by the adversities of life so his thought probably has the same types of characteristics. His thoughts lead to ambiguity such as at the start of the poem. “There you go then, you and I”(1) This could be referring to Prufrock and himself, or Prufrock and his lover.
On the way, Prufrock deliberates on whether he can find value in the cold superficial environment, and ask the question, “Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?”(45). He feels if he can gain the courage to ask the question, he may at last find value in his life: “would it have been worth while/ To have bitten off the matter with a smile,? To have squeezed the universe into a ball.”(89) Ultimately, he fails at both tasks. Throughout the poem, the themes of time’s passage and age continue to illustrate the unhappiness of Prufrock’s life. Prufrock reveals the measured out portions of life he has lived: “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”(51) This phrase shows Prufrock’s inability to seize the day. He also says such things as the of his thinning hair and his resulting bald spot in order to indicate the passage of age and the importance he feels now that he is past his prime: “Time to turn back and descend the stair,/ With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–/ (They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin’)”(39) This shows Prufrock’s fear of being laughed at.
When he speaks of time it is in a contradictory fashion. On one hand, he feels a sense of urgency as he travels to the party, because he must decide if he will ask his question. Yet, while he agonizes over whether to attempt a change in his life, he tells us time is plentiful, explaining “there will be time for you and time for me/ And time yet for a hundred indecisions / And for a hundred visions and revisions/ Before taking of the toast and tea”(32) This seems to be Prufrock trying to escape his conviction of asking the question through rationalization. Ironically, he has catered to the proprieties of high society for years, and remains unaware of how time has put the same emptiness into his own nature: “For I have known them all already, known them all/ I know the voices with a dying fall(49)/ And I have known the eyes already, known them all.”(55) Prufrock talks compulsively of the party scene, but actually speaks to no one. Even as the scene unfolds in his mind, he is rendered practically speechless by the scrutiny of the people as they “fix” their gazes upon him: “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?”(56) From this line, which can be looked at as a metaphor, we see that Prufrock is reduced to a bug under the scrutiny of his peers; there approval pins him down and renders him unable to ask his question. He is tense and excited at the prospect of his question changing his life , but knows he will feel horribly self-conscious , and it frightens him. He is certain if he asks his question and reveals his feelings, he will not be understood. He feels he surely would be made the fool. He decides it is not worth the effort after all: “I am no prophetand here’s no great matter;/ And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker,/ And in short I was afraid.”(84) In this line, Prufrock’s fears betray his desires. The eternal footman in this line symbolizes death.
He has heard them talk for years and knows only fashion, appearance, art, and style are deemed worthy of discussion. In fact, he listened so long he can’t hear there voices anymore. He can only hear “voices dying with a dying fall,” not unlike the hum of music playing in another room. But this is fine with him, because he and his world are once again at a comfortable place. Finally and permanently, Prufrock accepts that he will never be a prophet like Lazarus or a prince like Hamlet, and he slips into the safety of a fantasy world.