Human Insecurity in T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Human Insecurity in T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is an examination of human insecurity and folly, embodied in the title's J. Alfred Prufrock. Eliot's story of a man's "overwhelming question", his inability to ask it, and consequently, his mental rejection plays off the poem's many ambiguities, both structural and literal. Eliot uses these uncertainties to develop both the plot of the poem and the character of J. Alfred Prufrock.

The poem's setting is one that conjures up images of vagueness. It is filled with "yellow fog" and "yellow smoke", both of which suggest a certain denseness and haziness. Similarly, Prufrock is faced with another kind of mist - "perfume
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"You" is only featured in two distinct actions, being lead to an "overwhelming question" (ln. 10) and "The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase"(56). Both actions involve direct contact with others, in contrast with "I" who is far more introverted and introspective. This supports the idea of "You " being Prufrock's projected image, however, a vague "you" reflects Prufrock's own uncertainty.

The ambiguity of certain words in the poem adds to the aura of indecisiveness. The evening is compared to "a patient etherised upon the table". The word "etherised" means literally, to be anaesthetized; however it also suggests the word "ethereal" which means less real. The first definition implies a sense of numbness, while the second implies falseness; both are qualities that appear in the poem. The reference to being anaesthetized is reflected later on a description of the afternoon: "The afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! / Smoothed by long fingers / Asleep...tired...or it malingers (75-77)". This suggests that that sense of numbness saturates Prufrock's entire environment; it is also then coupled with the idea that this environment is also "less real".

Another word with dual meaning is in the lines "the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase / and when I'm formulated, sprawling on a pin...(56-57)". The word "formulated" is synonymous with "prepared" or "planned" the first time it is used, contrasting these "eyes" with Prufrock's own lack of
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