How is dramatic monologue used in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" to reveal Prufrock's character?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the narrator, supposedly Prufrock himself, tells about his intentions to ask a loved one an "overwhelming question," and as he does tell us of that intent, he reveals quite a lot about his character and personality.  In dramatic monologues, there is usually an imaginary person who is telling about an event, and as they do so, they reveal their character.  So, the main issue Prufrock has on his mind in this poem is asking this person his question--what question, he never clarifies, but it is generally assumed that it is a marriage proposal, or some sort of revelation about his feelings.  As he ponders when and how to ask the question or bring up the subject, his mind wanders and reveals many other interesting aspects about his personality.

We learn that he is intimidated by women--he describes being in their company as being a bug "pinned and wriggling on the wall," which reveals he feels analyzed and powerless in their presence.  While he is intimidated by them, he is a lover of their beauty; he desribes their skirts along the floor, and the delicate hairs on their arms.  That beauty adds to his intimidations of them.

As Prufrock rambles in his monologue, we also learn that he is incredibly insecure about his appearance, and feels that people notice it and criticize it all.  He describes his receding hairline, his thin limbs, and how he feels he is growing "old," and how people will comment upon all of these things.

Another tidbit that comes through in the monologue is that Prufrock feels that we spend most of our time in life wasting our days with nonsensical and meaningless chatter and activities. He describes the futility of feeling like he has "measured out [his] life with coffee spoons" at various different social events. He's already "heard them all" as far as small topics of conversation go.  He feels these parties and events are a frustrating waste of time, and places where people cannot talk about things that truly matter.

So, Prufrock's intimidation of women, insecurity, and frustration with current social settings are all revealed in his narrative, along with other character traits. I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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