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"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" By T S Elliot
Transcript of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" By T S Elliot
By: T. S Elliot Summary: Michelangelo is once again mentioned. The author questions whether he dares continues to this relationship as time goes on. He is aware of the passage of time and the adverse effect it has on him. He feels his decision has rippled through time and the universe.
Analysis: The repetition of rhetorical questions such as, "Do I dare?" speaks of a conflict within him. How he describes himself demonstrates a lack of confidence in his ability to hang on the forever that is usually associated with love. As time passes the more undeserving he is. He wonders if one of the pair will someday change their mind about their relationship. In the room... & And indeed there will be time... Summary: The first stanza is setting the scene for two lovers meeting. It speaks of midnight meetings almost as if it's a secret.
Analysis: The mention of the cheap hotels and the sawdust restaurants suggest that this meeting is not a typical romance. It implies something darker. It speaks of an insidious intent leading to the understanding of a shameful affair. A smaller stanza speaks of Michelangelo. This could mean a chapel or museum or could be a reference to the painter's familiarity with the human form. Let us go then, you and I... Summary: The fog is brought to life as it travels particularly about the building he is in. The fog is yellow, adding character, though possibly of a negative connotation that he can relate to.
Analysis: The color yellow could mean anxiety or self-criticism. He could feel trapped by this yellow fog that haunts about the streets. The personification of the fog brings an intimidating and sinister aspect to the love song, contradicting the expectation that love is a bright and cheerful emotion. The fog ends curled up around the house, as if awaiting the correct time to make a fatal move. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes... & And indeed there will be time... Summary: The speaker describes his daily routine as if his entire existence has passed him by day by day. He feels as if he is trapped by his routine watching the freedom of others.
Analysis: Prufrock is content with his life but regretful he didn't do more with it. He speaks of music from a far away room as if there was something beautiful just out of his grasp. For I have known them all already... Summary: Prufrock feels as though he is being watched or judged all the time. He feels like he is being trapped by the watchers and feels uncomfortable.
Analysis: When he describes being pinned and wriggling on the wall it seems to be like he is a bug pinned on display board. The eyes he mentions are not given to a particular person or group making it omniscient. This makes them seem all the more intrusive into his life. He's ask rhetorical questions like "How should I presume?" This is just a continuation of his doubt. And I have known the eyes already... Summary: He's describing a beautiful woman. She fits into society's standards of beautiful during that time period. He finds her a distraction though he questions if that is a good thing or not.
Analysis: The bracelets on her wrists suggest wealth and a possible class division between them. He pays particular attention to colors, specifically the contrast between white and brown. Still he questions himself and what bout her he is drawn to. And I have known the arms already... Summary: He speaks of lonely men and perhaps relates to them. He also speaks of claws as if relating himself or a inner monster that for now is dormant.
Analysis: There is a change in narrative here. He is speaking to himself rather than a third party. Once again there is a bug reference of scuttling. The silent sea is perhaps a sea on inner turmoil. The reference of dusk is usually the time before their meetings. Shall I say... & I should have been... Summary: The world seems relaxed and steady around Prufrock, yet he finds himself terribly aware of his mortality. He helpless to stop the passage of time. He feels as if death is mocking him.
Analysis: The mention of the various food and beverages suggests a picnic lunch. The words such as wept and fasted, wept and prayed indicate a religious association perhaps a prayer for life. Still, he fears the inevitable. And the afternoon, the evening... Summary: Despite the questions the author is having about the relationship he worries he will regret not sharing his doubtful thoughts. He could pretend everything is fine but his approaching mortality causes him to ponder what he will regret once he no longer is capable of expressing those thoughts.
Analysis: He refers back to Lazarus who is a biblical character famous for being raised from the dead. This could refer to either the author or his questions coming back to life. He uses powerful imagery such as the universe in a ball or the pillow by her head to make the situation more realistic and understandable. And it would have been worth it... Summary: Once again Prufrock questions if he should be having this relationship. He feels like it's too good to be true. The wonder of the relationship might not outlast the doubts embedded in his mind.
Analysis: The magic lantern adds a surreal quality as if this is a trick of magic. The magic will eventually fade as if it was never completely real. There is a list of pleasurable experiences that demonstrate why its so hard to give up.The line "That is not what I meant at all" suggests that Prufrock didn't intended for the relationship to progress in this way. And it would be worth it , after all... Summary: He doesn't want to be the hero or the lead but would rather be a supporting role, equally as important but less expectations. The best role for him to play is blissful ignorance.
Analysis: By relating his life to Hamlet, he is describing himself to be a character in a tragedy. This classic tragedy ends in the death of nearly everyone except the one that must continue the tale. The Fool mentioned could be the court jester who's skull is found by Hamlet inspiring deep questions. The Fool could also be Hamlet himself who dismisses the woman he loves. No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor want to be... Summary: The rest of the poem is an acceptance of his age. He has dedicated himself to the life of an old man. He has accepted the loss of his youth but lingers on things past. What he dreams of now seems to be fantastical and unreal.
Analysis: He focuses on the physical characteristics of demonstrating old age. The mermaids would not sing to him because he doesn't feel that they would appeal to him. Earlier in the poem a woman appealed to him for indescribable reasons like a siren's call that age allows him to ignore. The human voices are an allusion to old age and mortality waking him up to the reality of an eventual death. He uses the pronoun "we" as he likes to imagine he is with the mermaids/women/lovers he wants now. I grow old...I grow old... & We lingered in the chambers of the sea... The End