The Pitiful Prufrock of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," is a melancholy poem
of one man's frustrated search to find the meaning of his existence. The
speaker's strong use of imagery contributes to the poems theme of communion and
The Poem begins with an invitation from Prufrock to follow him
through his self-examination. The imagery of this invitation begins with a
startling simile, "Let us go then you and I/ When the evening is spread out
against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table." This simile literally
describes the evening sky, but functions on another level. Prufrock's
description of the "etherised" evening indicates an altering of perception, and
an altering of time, which creates a dreamlike quality throughout the poem.
This dreamlike quality is supported throughout the poem with the "yellow fog"
that contributes to the slowed-down-etherised feeling of the poem. Time and
perception are effectively "etherised" in this poem.
It is almost as if the
poem is a suspended moment of realization of one man's life, "spread out against
the sky". The imagery of the patient represents Prufrock's self-examination.
Furthermore, the imagery of the "etherised patient" denotes a person waiting for
treatment. It seems this treatment will be Prufrock's examination of himself and
his life. Prufrock repeats his invitation and asks the reader to follow him
through a cold and lonely setting that seems to be the Prufrock's domain. The
imagery of the journey through the city is described as pointed to lead the
reader (and more accurately Prufrock) to an overwhelming question. Prufrock's
description of the urban city is quite dreary: " Let us go, through certain
half-deserted streets,/ The muttering retreats/ Of restless nights in one-night
cheap hotels/ And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells;/ Streets that follow
like a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent." This is the lonely setting that
Prufrock lives out his meager existence. This city is suspended under the same
anesthesia that spreads the evening like an "etherised patient." Prufrock
moves his attention from the city to his final destination; "the room the women
come and go/ Speaking of Michealangelo." This couplet contrasts with the
previous urban landscape and adds anticipation to the ominous tension
surrounding the event. This line also is about time. The couplet suggests that
Prufrock has been around to see these women "come and go," implying Prufrock has
been situated in the high societal environment for some time. The line also
implies that while others have come and gone from the social circles Prufrock is
a part of; Prufrock has stayed stagnating.
On the way, Prufrock deliberates