Eliot’s poetic techniques and the character of j. alfred prufrock

The first factor of the poem which is striking is the title: the fact that it is a ‘ Love Song’ suggest closeness and romance which is then removed by the way in which he signs his name. ‘ J. Alfred Prufrock’ appears to be more personal than simply his surname because it is individual to him but at the same time it could be interpreted as somewhat formal due to its fullness. Something else which seems strange at first is the name itself; the ‘ fr’ sounds give it a weak, possibly feminine sound which is similar to his personality. The man himself, Prufrock, is clearly quite eloquent and well educated but has problems with showing emotion and therefore finds relationships difficult. This is shown in the first three lines which being apparently romantically with mention ‘ the evening… spread out against the sky’ in the second line but this image is corrupted by his attempt at a simile ‘ like a patient etherised upon a table’. This use of a simile suggests education but the manner of it also outlines his lack of romance. Due to the fact that the poem is a ‘ love song’ it would appear that Prufrock is referring to his lover when he says ‘ Let us go then, you and I’, although he could also be talking directly to the reader. Despite the impressive build up with the title, the exert in Italian and the first couple of lines, the first verse is largely bathetic due to the disappointment and rapid descent of any idea of love. He speaks about ‘ half deserted streets’ which simply suggests it may be late in the day or they are streets which people have no reason to be in. This is followed by the mention of ‘ muttering retreats’ and ‘ restless nights in one-night cheap hotels’; these two phrases suggest that he may be visiting prostitutes in the back streets of the city which certainly leads the reader to question whether the speaker is trying to woo a lover or deter her. The ‘ sawdust restaurants with oyster shells’ are not the sort one would imagine he could take a lover to and yet this seems to be what he is suggesting in the first line ‘ let us go’. Throughout this he appears to be nervous or cautious due to his increasing use of plosives in words such as ‘ muttering’, ‘ tedious’ and ‘ night’. There are two lines before the beginning of the second stanza which are repeated again in the poem ‘ In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo’. These women are different to the prostitutes he has supposedly been seeing or, in fact, his lover and the fact that they ‘ come and go’ show that he has little interest in them. They appear to be the women that he has to spend his time with, as a middle-class man who would be expected to talk to them, possibly at social gatherings or alike where he does not necessarily wish to. They seem to want to show their intelligence and education by ‘ talking of Michelangelo’, choosing to talk about this shows that they are cultured although it is really simply small talk. The second stanza shows less about the speaker’s personality but does show a slightly different side to him. The descriptive first four lines of the stanza give it a comforting feel which is also the closest he gets to writing something with a taste of sensuality in the first two stanzas. The ‘ fog that rubs its back’, ‘ rubs its muzzle’ and ‘ licked its tongue’ suggests animalisation of maybe a bear which seems to be a strange comparison to fog but one which the speaker is clearly happy to carry through three lines. This might suggest a certain stubbornness which could be caused by his anxiety and nervousness. We see this throughout the poem but a strong example would be his need to comfort himself later on in the second stanza. He repeats the phrase ‘ there will be time’ in an attempt to reassure himself that he will have time to do all the things he feels he needs to do such as ‘ create a face to meet the faces that you meet’. This line is also interesting as it suggests that he believes he is required to put up a front to anyone that he meets and this further implies his cautiousness and lack of social ability. The speaker feels pressured about his inadequacies because he thinks people are always looking at him or meeting him and judging him, usually because of his appearance. He suggests that his servants ‘ who lift and drop a question on your plate’ might be mocking him behind his back. This is why he feels the need to prepare everything with great detail and he spends a long time doing so, the phrase ‘ a hundred visions and revisions’ shows this because he is sure that he must get it perfectly right before continuing with anything such as ‘ taking toast and tea’. This way of thinking forces him to question himself repeatedly; does he ‘ dare’ approach a woman in case she may find some sort of inadequacy? Overall Prufrock is a very vivid character, one who is critical of himself due to his anxiousness and apparent shortfalls. This leads him, certainly in the first forty lines, to question many things, among which is his ability to have a relationship or perhaps even meet with women.`