"The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock" is a dramatic monologue. What are the physical/emotional qualities of the narrator?

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem can definitely be analyzed on a psychological level.  Generally, the narrator is an aging man with little confidence who must venture out to a cocktail party and interact with women.

Physically, the man is not the image of a handsome and athletic Greek god.  He has the body image issues that many people have that keep him from feeling secure, as the following lines from the poem indicate:

"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!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]

Prufrock later laments his aging equates it with a lack of physical attractiveness.The narrator seems unable to find enough pride to follow through with his goal of developing a relationship, or creating his "love song."  As the eNotes critical review cited below states:

Prufrock is full of self-doubts, with a pessimistic outlook on his future, as well as the future of society and the world. This pessimistic view renders him unable to declare his love to the unnamed woman.

The opening epitaph of the poem is an allusions to Dante and spoken by a lost soul, paralleling Prufrock and setting up his pessimistic views of the wolrd and his place in it.

He uses images of "yellow smoke," "butt-ends," and "a patient etherized on a table" in references to his life experiences.  This evokes a feeling of pity in the reader for Prufrock and lowers the expectiation that he will encounter a positive outcome this particular evening.

The last two lines of the poem tell it all:  "we drown."  Drowning is both a literal and metaphorical type of suicide, or death.  In this case Prufrock sees his intended actions of pursuing the unnamed woman as socially and emotion  Prufrock is his own worst enemy.  Aren't we all?

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

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