Hesitation, Repression, and Indecisiveness in the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Impotent, pathetic, inadequate, timid. Everyone knows a J. Alfred Prufrock, and everyone has a bit of him in himself or herself. Just like Prufrock we readers have been witness to the pretentious triviality of others, the women who "come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo" (lines 13-14), and the lack of confidence which prevents the realization of desires. Eliot's careful choice of epigraph from Dante's Inferno reverberates throughout this poem as the logic behind Prufrock sharing his feelings with his listener. Just as Guido da Montefeltro is certain his listener shares a similar fate as himself, so to does Prufrock believe that his listener is like himself, and will never "turn back and descend the stair" (line 39). Prufrock's…show more content…
Death also signifies Prufrock's lack of social contact and sexual stimulation. The word etherized not only means to numb, but is also suggestive of the word ethereal. Prufrock's repressed desire can be seen in his frustration with the reality of social/emotional interaction and also with the ethereal, inexpressible inner desire of his heart, not just to ask "an overwhelming question", but further, to say exactly what he means as in line 104. Unable to "force the moment to its crisis" leaves Prufrock emotionally impotent. Unlike Marvell and his coy mistress Prufrock does not have all the time in the world to malinger, "stretched on the floor." Trivializing his message of desire, as in the rhyme of lines 79-80 or referring to himself as John the Baptist only further hinders the expression of his desire. And we can only imagine in Eliot's use of religious images in which Prufrock "wept and fasted, wept and prayed" that Prufrock is fervently hoping for the self-confidence to express his desires. Yet after the social banter/conventions of "the cups, the marmalade, the tea", "the porcelain" and "some talk of you and me" Prufrock is still unable to seize the moment, to turn desire into action. Presuming that Prufrock is largely reflecting on these issues himself rather than to another listener one notices that he is unable to even mention his desires to himself, so deeply

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