“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is in part a satire. Its character is not the hero of romance but an antihero, one constrained by fear. He spends much of the poem contemplating what to him is to be a daring act, but is in fact only the effort to talk to women at a social event. The very name Prufrock is suggestive; the first syllable suggests the word “prude” without the final consonant, while a “frock” is a garment that would have been considered overly formal by young people of Eliot’s generation.
The urban setting for the poem is itself also the object of satire. The sunset at the beginning of the evening is not inspiring but instead is dormant, “like a patient etherized upon a table.” The streets through which the two will pass is full of cheap, sordid hotels and filthy restaurants. The twentieth century city is not a place of dreams.
The description of the social event suggests something shallow and superficial, where people show off their knowledge of art. The only details given are the women’s bare arms and long dresses, talk of Michelangelo and perhaps unnamed novels, and refreshments. Prufrock is vaguely aware of the contrast between the superficial, perhaps privileged world he is about to enter and the bleak, urban landscape outside: In the former, people have the leisure for superficial talk, while in the latter, “lonely men in shirtsleeves” are perhaps tired from work. Prufrock is too self-centered,...
(The entire section is 595 words.)
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