In T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," how does the lyrical ego recollect the time spent with the woman in lines 75-78, 88-89, and 96-98? What is the relationship between them...

In T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," how does the lyrical ego recollect the time spent with the woman in lines 75-78, 88-89, and 96-98? What is the relationship between them like?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In lines 75 through 78 of T. S. Eliot's lengthy poem "The Love Song of J. Alred Prufrock," the speaker reflects on past "arms" and relationships he has known as he waits for the woman he is about to have tea with. He reflects on sleeping peacefully in the afternoon and evening and how the afternoons and evenings were "smoothed" by her gentle touch of "long fingers." Yet, by line 77, his reflection takes on a sour note as he reflects the touch was sometimes absent because the woman either feigned tiredness or illness, as we see reflected in the line, "Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers."

By line 79, his mind has taken him back to anticipating having tea with this new woman he is meeting. He asks himself, "Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?" The term crisis can be interpreted to mean "turning point," just like the word climax. Hence, it's clear the speaker is hoping for a sexual experience, a sexual climax, but has too many self-doubts to feel strong about urging the experience. His self-doubt is expressed in lines 81-86 in which he uses imagery that alludes to the prophet John the Baptist who was especially known for his life of chastity. Hence, in likening himself to John the Baptist, he is also prophesying he will always be chaste. Yet, he further concludes that he is "no prophet--and here's no great matter"; in other words, it doesn't take a prophet to foresee the speaker shall always remain chaste. As the speaker expresses it, "I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker," meaning, he has seen his strength of character and the greatest moments of his life already pass him by.

Hence, all in all, the relationship between the speaker and the woman he reflects on prior to line 79 was nice at times but ultimately sexually and emotionally unsatisfying. Plus, as he anticipates meeting the new woman for tea in lines 79-86, he anticipates equal failure and dissatisfaction.

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