T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” draws attention to the idea that time is of the essence. On the surface, Prufrock is portrayed as a man who is incapable of making decisions and lacks self-confidence. This is evident through his passive nature, where he continuously delays having to talk to women because he believes there is enough time. Written in the era of modernism, the reader is capable of unraveling that the poem’s true purpose was not only to show Prufrock’s inability to make decisions when it comes to love, but to show the desolation that one faces in times of a modernistic transition. Eliot depicts Prufrock’s transition phase through a gloomy and solemn tone, incorporating imagery, metaphor and synecdoche to fully illustrate Prufrock’s despondent state of mind and spirit.
Prufrock invites us, the reader, through his journey of self-evaluation and self-examination, as he say’s “LET us go then, you and I.” He uses personification in lines 5, “the muttering retreats” to describe his surroundings as if it were alive. The "retreats" are not "muttering," but it seems that way because they are the kinds of places where you would run into muttering people. Also, the restless nights mentioned in lines 4 and 6, “let us go, through certain half-deserted streets/Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels”
allude to modernism—young people walking around at night, in and out of one-night cheap hotels. Another indication of the party and city-life is how observing Prufrock appears to be as he recalls seeing “sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells” (7). Being that sawdust is supposed to soak up liquid that is spilled on dance floors of restaurants, and oysters are aphrodisiacs, this suggests modernity.
The use of imagery was a deliberate choice on Eliot’s part as it allowed him to express Prufrock as a man afflicted with feelings of isolation and the inability to make decisions. Prufrock is described as a man who was not only detached from women but to his surroundings too. Prufrocks loneliness is emphasized when “In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo,” (35-36) where women would talk amongst themselves and completely ignore Prufrock’s existence. The purpose of referencing Michelangelo serves to emphasize how self-conscious Prufrock feels being as Michelangelo is recognized for his masterpieces that express the beauty of the human form. It is clear that Prufrock thinks otherwise of himself as he has to question his actions, such as when he say’s “‘Do I dare?’ and, “Do I dare?,” insinuating his inability to make a decision. Prufrock uses Hamlet to symbolize his indecisive nature through Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy “To Be Or Not To Be,” which is a reference that he, just like Hamlet, does not know what to do. Further, the reader is capable of understanding just how insecure Prufrock is when he say’s:
“With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my...