How does T. S. Eliot shift the readers from a distant perspective to a more intimate closeness to the subject in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?"  

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the speaker begins the poem addressing an unknown "you" in which case he could be talking to himself or some absent person. It is not clear if there is another person with him but the scholarly consensus is that the speaker is alone, and he is addressing an absent person or himself. Prufrock begins the poem with a casual manner, making note of the external view of the city: "half-deserted streets," "sawdust restaurants," and "yellow fog." Eventually, Prufrock focuses less on external distractions and turns more introspective and confronts his self doubt:

To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?'

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair-

(They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!') (38-41).

As the poem continues, Prufrock takes us (or himself and whoever the "you" is that he is speaking to) further and further into his self-conscious contemplation. As this progresses, he reveals more and more of his feelings of inadequacy. This progresses more and more towards intimate confessions. At one point, he says he is no Hamlet; he's more like a supporting character. "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; / Am an attendant lord, one that will do / To swell a progress, start a scene or two," (111-113). He is so riddled with self doubt that he doesn't even consider himself the main character of his own story. 

Interestingly, as Prufrock gets more introspective and more intimate throughout the poem, he physically distances himself from asking the woman. It is as if he's retreating into himself with the effect that dwelling on his doubts pushes him further into himself and further from actually engaging with the woman in the real world. 

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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