The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (2023)

How do people measure time? In seconds, minutes, hours, days, years? In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917), the masterful American poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) forces the reader to contemplate the idea of ​​measuring life with coffee spoons. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" marked an important shift in poetic history and shows the beginnings of modernist poetry.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917)

First published in 1915, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", commonly known simply as "Prufrock", was originally written between 1910 and 1911. The poem is Eliot's first professionally published poem in his career. The 131-line poem features its narrator's inner monologue as he details his regrets and frustrations in his elderly state.

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (1)Fig. 1 - Retrato de T.S. Eliot.

Summary of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

With "Prufrock" Eliot burst onto the literary scene and set himself apart from the poets of his day who wrote in the Georgian or Romantic style. The poem is the inner monologue of its narrator, Prufrock, as his thoughts float in a stream of consciousness from one thought to another about his potential lover.

stream of consciousnessit is a narrative device in which the author writes in a way that reflects the narrator's thought process and inner monologue.

Prufrock starts by approaching her potential lover. He begins with one of the poem's most famous lines: “Come then, you and I, / When the afternoon stretches against the sky / Like an ethereal patient on a table” (1-3). Sets the tone of the poem instantly. Instead of reflecting on the beauty of sunsets, Prufrock, as Eliot wrote, compares the night sky to a person on an operating table under anesthesia.

It is also apparent early in the poem that Prufrock suffers from an inability to express his thoughts and that whatever he wants to say remains unsaid. He describes the world around him as full of “yellows”.mist” (15), and “yellow smoke” (24), representing her own insecurities.

Furthermore, each of the longer opening stanzas is separated by two lines that read: “The women come and go in the room/Speaking of Michelangelo” (13-14, 35-36). That chorus is Prufrock, which means the people around you are glibbling about big ideas; every day he must listen to the insipid thoughts of people who think they are saying important things but can do nothing about it.

What effect does the use of the color yellow produce here? Is it used in a positive or negative descriptive way?

Prufrock details his physical insecurities, that people look at him and think of his thin hair and thin build. He believes that he has done and seen it all, that his days have crossed and that he can measure his life “with coffee spoons” (51). More than the passing hours, Prufrock measures it in teaspoons, as every day is tedious and repetitive.

(Video) Poetry: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S Eliot (read by Tom Hiddleston) (12/11)

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (2)Fig. 2 - Prufrock counts its days in coffee spoons.

Prufrock knows that people immediately write him off and claim he knows everything about women; however, the reality may be different. He is full of thoughts and desire for women, but does not act on his doubts, noting that "It's the perfume of a dress / It makes me so wander" (65-66) in his thought.

As the day progresses and gets later, Prufrock struggles with this big reveal that he wants to say but is afraid to do. However, Prufrock laments that, in his old age, he no longer has anything of importance to say: "I am not a prophet, and that is no big deal" (83). He's past the time when he could be great, but instead he's grown old and faced death, which scares him.

Prufrock grows more and more frantic as he agonizes over whether or not to say what's on his mind to bring out the problem that plagues him. He laments his lot in life as a mere minor character: “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor should I be;" (111). He flatly says, "I get old... I get old..." (120).

Prufrock's monologue ends with his disappointing version of the mermaids, beautiful and unattainable. Prufrock finds himself so undesirable that not even the sirens would sing him a song. The poem ends on the solemn note that "we" (129) humans wait to join these perfect beings.

Mermaids are just onechicto escape the boredom of your daily life. Even in a fictional world, Prufrock can't change his insecure ways and still not draw attention. The fantasy remains just that: a daydream from which he will have to return to the monotony of his life.

Themes from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

The main themes of "Prufrock" concern indecision, frustration and decay.


Almost the entire poem features Prufrock's narration full of doubts and self-directed questions: "Do I dare / disturb the universe?" (46-47); "Then how should I assume?" (54); "And how should I start?" (69). Prufrock seeks to ask an important question or declare a revelation, but fails due to these insecurities. He projects onto himself what other people must think of him: that he's going bald, that he's too skinny, that he's not good enough for the women he pursues.

Even sirens wouldn't sing to someone as pitiful and indecisive as Prufrock. Your indecision means you cannot act; Rather than having lived a meaningful and adventurous life by declaring the answers to the "overwhelming question" (93), Prufrock's life can be measured in coffee spoons in the repetitive monotony of everyday life.

Prufrock is an indecisive character destined to represent a generation. Eliot uses Prufrock as a stand-in for the men of his generation, whom he perceives as socially impotent and isolated. It is a modernist poem intended to represent the modern, urban man, one who cannot find satisfaction in the trappings of his society. Prufrock's emotional expression is internal, and although there is much he wants to say, he is unable to express his thoughts.


From his indecisiveness and feelings of inadequacy, Prufrock becomes frustrated with himself and his romantic pursuits. The title of the poem postulates that it is a "love song", but Prufrock does not mention love once. He longs to express himself, perhaps, to the lady who rests her shawl-wrapped arm on the table, but fears his meaning will be misunderstood.

(Video) The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock. T.S. Eliot. Read by Anthony Hopkins

Prufrock is frustrated by his inability to clearly communicate his inner thoughts and desires. He feels that "It's impossible to say exactly what I want to say!" (104). In life, you get frustrated with your perceived flaws.

Like Prufrock's indecision, his frustration is representative of Eliot's perception of the times. People are frustrated with their society, with their inability to express themselves, with their desire for acceptance and love. Modern society is seen as an alienating and frustrating force in the poem.

Modernist literature often used themes that departed from the classical poetic tradition. Here, instead of Hamlet, we have Prufrock, who cannot even say what he wants. Thus, Prufrock's frustration reflects Eliot's attempt to reflect the frustrations of contemporary society explored through a thoroughly modernist protagonist.


Prufrock describes an outer world of yellow skies and "half-deserted streets" (4). He states: "I get old... I get old..." (120). Prufrock is consumed by how others perceive him, as well as the insecurities stemming from the signs of aging he is showing.

His hair is balding, thinning, and now he's rolling his pants up to his ankles. Along with his bleak worldscape, Prufrock's self is decaying and aging, the body representing the apparent decay of Eliot's society.

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (3)Fig. 3: Prufrock's physical decline and hair loss symbolize the decline of society.

This is a surprising idea, given that the technological innovations and social progression of the early 20th century were seen as harbingers of a new era of improvement in Western society. Instead of praising these progressions, Eliot uses Prufrock as a way of showing what these changes have wrought in modern man.

Structure "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

"Prufrock" has a free verse structure that varies throughout the poem. This fragmented poetic structure is characteristic of Eliot's poetry; he mastered the style with his later poem "The Waste Land" (1922). In "Prufrock", the poetic structure is similar to a dramatic monologue in that the poem follows its speaker's inner train of thought. Eliot writes in a stream-of-consciousness style, in which thoughts stop and Prufrock goes off on a tangent. The overall effect on the reader is to be directly inside Prufrock's head as his incoherent thoughts come and go.

Although the style is considered free and fragmented verse, there are parts of the poem that use a more formalistic poetic structure. Examples of structured poetic form serve to emphasize the unique theme that Eliot uses. Prufrock is representative of the development (or decline, perhaps) of Western urban man.

Using a blend of Eliot's unique free verse and traditional poetic meter, he makes a statement about how this type of man came to be. It is to question and interrogate the progress of modern society. At the same time, he implements a thoroughly modernist poetic style interspersed with sections reminiscent of romantic or Victorian styles.

(Video) The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot | Summary & Analysis

The modernist style that Eliot employs would remain incredibly influential; initially dismissed as nonsense, "Prufrock's" style would become one of the most important markers in modernist poetic history.

Interpretation and analysis of "The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

"Prufrock" is a poem that deals with the aforementioned themes of frustration, indecision and decay. Throughout the poem, Eliot uses Prufrock's inner narrative to express the shortcomings and insecurities of men in the early 20th century. Prufrock desperately wants to ask his question and make a change, but is too indecisive and insecure to do so.

He feels the weight of his age, for he himself is "falling apart" and he too has lived an ordinary life that can be measured "in coffee spoons" (51). Prufrock is just a minor character in life, unable to say anything of significance. Eliot comments on the state of society as he sees it: full of self-doubt, frustrated people trying in vain to live a meaningful life.

Throughout the poem, Eliot makes use of various literary devices to convey the central meaning. These include:


The poem's epigraph is an excerpt from Dante's poem.Inferno. The fragment refers to a man condemned to hell, Guido, preparing to explain his sins and the reasons for his condemnation because the listener will never be able to return to the living and tell them.

The use of this fragment as an epigraph serves to assimilate J. Alfred Prufrock's world to Guido's hell. Furthermore, Prufrock divulges his secrets to the reader in much the same way that Guido does in Inferno, and perhaps extends the same expectation of secrecy that the reader will take Prufrock's thoughts in confidence.

Eliot makes many other allusions throughout the poem. Many are for the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes with line 28 "time to kill and create" and with the direct reference to Lazarus, who, in the Bible, was raised from the dead, in line 94. The original line in Ecclesiastes is "a time to reap and sow.” Eliot subverts this by bringing harvesting and sowing, agricultural practices designed to sustain life, into the realm of murder and creation associated with death.

Furthermore, in the Bible, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus; References to Lazarus in literature are often used to refer to restoration to life. Prufrock wonders if it would have been worth it to act like Lazarus, to be restored to life from the dead and still be misunderstood.

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (4)Fig. 4 - Eliot includes biblical allusions, including Lazarus being raised from the dead.

Throughout "Prufrock" Eliot also includes allusions to classic works of literature. Prufrock remarks that he is "not Prince Hamlet" (111), referring to Shakespeare's play. No, actually, Prufrock is not Hamlet, but he sees himself as a minor character, or even a "fool". (119).

Even in his own life, Prufrock is not the main character. He is auxiliary of his own experience. At the end of the poem, the mermaidchicis an allusion to the mermaids inHomerofOdyssey. NoOdyssey, sirens lure sailors to their death by singing. Likewise, the underwater chambers the humans are in at the end of the poem are what lead to their demise.

(Video) T.S. Eliot Reads: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

repeat and chorus

Throughout the poem certain words and lines are repeated at length. "In the room women come and go/Speaking of Michelangelo" (13-14, 35-36) is repeated twice to emphasize the tedium of daily routine. As mentioned above, women talk about lofty topics but have little meaning to say. By repeating the lines, Eliot heightens Prufrock's feelings about the repetitive, endlessnatureof everyday life.

Many of the questions Prufrock asks himself: "Do I dare?" (38, 45, 122) and "how should I boast" (54, 61) are repeated here. These repetitive refrains mimic a neurotic and obsessive thought process. They serve to characterize Prufrock as a thoroughly modern man who cannot escape excessive and repetitive thoughts and insecurities.


The color yellow is used throughout the poem as a symbol. At the beginning of the poem, Prufrock describes his surroundings as being covered in "yellows".mist(15) and "yellow smoke" (16, 24). The yellow mist and smoke are characterized as a feline animal, which "rubs its back" (15) or "rubs its muzzle" (16) against the city and its buildings. air pollution in cities at the turn of the 20th century, but it also conveys a deeper meaning regarding Prufrock's plight.

Himmistit is also a symbol of love in the poem, as a more optimistic take on Prufrock's descent into pessimism throughout the remaining stanzas. the yellow versemistand the smoke reads like a seduction, from the procession - rubbing the back and muzzle against the windowpanes - to security, the consolation of love at the end: "And seeing that it was a mild October night,/Once he curled up at home and fell asleep. (22-23). Prufrock is imagining the kind of love he doesn't have.

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (5)Fig. 5 - The yellow mist symbolizes love.

Other symbols seen throughout the poem include tea sets and coffee spoons. Prufrock makes constant reference to drinking "tea" (34, 79, 88, 102), sometimes with toast, sometimes with cake, sometimes with jam. Other similar accessories come in the form of "coffee spoons" (51) with which Prufrock measured his life. These are symbols of the oppressive regularity of modern life. There is no variety and every day Prufrock must give in to the routine and banality of drinking his tea, so much so that he dreams of breaking this tradition: "Do I have the courage to eat a peach?" (122).


Much of the poem makes use of the poetic device.embracing. The lines of Eliot's poem intersect directly without the punctuation break. While this serves to emphasize stream of consciousness, it appears that Prufrock is simply expressing the thoughts exactly as they come to his mind, the lines crossing.

The overlay serves to show how "Prufrock" qualifies as a modernist poem. Eliot himself was a leader of the modernist movement, in which poetry emphasized the poet's life and personal contexts and rejected classical poetic forms and themes. With "Prufrock" Eliot made a definitive break with the Georgian and Romantic poetic forms that dominated the literary world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

embracingit is a poetic device in which a line of poetry continues directly into the next line without punctuation.

J. Alfred Prufrock's Love Song: Key Conclusions

  • "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917) is a poem by American poet T.S. Eliot.
  • The poem articulates Eliot's impression of men of his generation at the turn of the 20th century, namely that they are plagued by anxieties and insecurities.
  • The poem is in free verse form that uses bits of structure to give an overall impression of incoherent and incoherent thoughts in a stream of consciousness style.
  • The main themes of the poem are indecision, frustration and decay.
  • Eliot makes use of poetic resources as an allusion to other works such as Dante's.Infernoand the Bible, as well as overlay to convey the core meaning.
(Video) "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot (read by Jeremy Irons)


What is the main idea of the love song of Alfred Prufrock? ›

It is an examination of the tortured psyche of the prototypical modern man—overeducated, eloquent, neurotic, and emotionally stilted. Prufrock, the poem's speaker, seems to be addressing a potential lover, with whom he would like to “force the moment to its crisis” by somehow consummating their relationship.

What is Prufrock's main dilemma in the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

He was confined by the real world and had no way to change and flee. Therefore, it was his dilemma that made him could not live in harmony with the real world and then led to him spiritually paralyzed and alienated. Prufrock as a typical figure alluded more or less to the spiritual situation of early modern westerners.

What is the Prufrock relationship with love? ›

Prufrock is not just some stalker. He truly believes his beloved has sent him signals that she likes him, but he is worried that he might be misinterpreting her signals. Prufrock can only experience love through other people, at second- and third-hand.

What is the thing that Prufrock is so worried about in Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

Prufrock's anxiety about his own baldness, and also about the feebleness of his body, can be related to his obsessive fear regarding aging and death. This theme is again echoed as Prufrock proclaims: “I have seen the Eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short I was afraid” (lines 85-86).

Why is the title of Prufrock ironic? ›

There is irony even in the title of the poem and the name of the protagonist. The name, Prufrock suggests a kind of wispy, defeated idealism, and stupidity. His tragedy is that he is a man driven by the desire for something that he cannot achieve.

What is the conclusion of the love song by J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

Conclusion. In conclusion, it is quite clear that Prufrock's character is marked by fears of old age. While he is aware that he should participate in social events, another personality tells him that the people will judge him based on his looks and age.

What does yellow symbolize in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

In an article published in The Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, John Hakac argues that the yellow fog in the first section of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a symbol for love itself, and therefore a significant driving force of the poem.

Who is Prufrock talking to in the love song? ›

Here Prufrock seems to be alone and talking to himself. Later the “you” is the woman he wants to seduce, possibly propose to. Line 14: The great Italian sculptor and painter (1475 – 1564). His accomplishments and the women's interest in him shake Prufrock's already fragile self-confidence.

Is The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock about death? ›

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Prufrock, after having admitted to himself his own insignificance, looks ahead to his inevitable aging and death. He envisions himself walking by the sea. Here, as in all his major poems, Eliot uses the sea to represent death and eternity.

What is the overwhelming question in the love song? ›

In T.S. Eliot's “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” I believe Prufrock's overwhelming question is a marriage proposal because of the severity of his indecisiveness and inner debate of whether or not to ask it.

What are the two allusions in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

Littered throughout the poem are allusions to other literary works. In his introductory stanza, Eliot quotes Dante's “Inferno.” A couple of stanzas later, he references Michelangelo. Shortly after, Eliot references a love poem by Andrew Marvell, then he alludes to Hesiod.

Why is yellow the color of jealousy? ›

It was the colour of Judas's robe, standing for 'envy, jealousy, duplicity, lying, treachery and madness'. These negative connotations hung on until the 19th century — as in that archaic phrase 'yellow journalism'.

What is modern about The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? ›

T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock carries the characteristics of modernist poetry such as objective correlative, fragmentation, free verse and irregular rhyming. It suggests a direct break with English romantic poets such as Coleridge and Wordsworth (Levis 75).


1. T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
(Amy Foley)
2. The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock Animation
3. Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
(Joseph Miller)
4. 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' by T.S. Eliot - Key Themes and Analysis
5. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock | T. S. Eliot - Line by Line Analysis
(Nibble Pop)
6. "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot (read by Sir Alec Guinness)
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