How does the poem reveal that Prufrock is schizophrenic?My teacher says that he oscillates between a confident and weak personality but I fail to see it.

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, think of the title of the poem. It is a lovesong. But who is Prufrock telling it to? It seems as though he’s telling it to a friend or to himself. So, the lovesong is not some gift or proclamation that he ‘gives’ to this woman. It is Prufrock’s own thoughts about how to go about talking to the woman. The lovesong, the poem, is then, about itself. So, if we just look at the poem, we have to say, “how do you call this a lovesong? This is just you (Prufrock) talking/thinking about approaching this woman; presumably with a question of marriage. The question never happens. The conversation with her never happens. So, the lovesong between Prufrock and this woman never happens. The lovesong is about itself and in that respect, Prufrock focuses the lovesong on his own oscillations. This is kind of the logical or mathematical proof that he does exhibit self-doubt and confidence; he does in fact oscillate implying that he goes back and forth between potentials: asking and not asking. The potential to ask requires confidence and the potential not to requires self-doubt. But despite the overwhelming sense that this is just Prufrock agonizing and psyching himself out of asking her, there are elements of blatant self-interest or even narcissism.

“And there will be time” – he is procrastinating either because he is afraid of rejection as a result of low self-confidence or he is only interested in his own thoughts. (He could be both: anxious and self-involved.)

Instances of Prufrock’s confidence are often indirect.


I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. (73-74)


I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker (84)


And I have known the eyes already, known them all—

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, (here he claims he has intimate knowledge of all the ways women look at him).


And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin


I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter (83, the matter is asking her to marry)


Do I dare

Disturb the universe (45-46) As if his decision is so great, it will disturb the universe. He must have a high opinion of himself.



Read the study guide:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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