In the poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, how are sound devices used?  

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

T.S. Eliot employs end rhyme, which refers to when the words at the ends of lines rhyme with one another.  For example, in the first grouping of lines, the words at the ends of lines 1-2, I and sky, rhyme.  Then, the words at the ends of lines 4-5, street and retreats, rhyme.  Likewise, hotels and shells, the words at the ends of lines 6-7 rhyme.  The words argument and intent rhyme, at the ends of lines 8-9.  Finally, it and visit, the words at the ends of lines 11-12, rhyme.  In other words, then, every line in the first group of twelve lines rhymes with another line except for line 3, "Like a patient etherized upon a table," and line 10, "To lead you to an overwhelming question."  This makes these two lines stand out.  Eliot sort of trains our ears to expect the end rhyme, and so when these lines fail to rhyme with others, it makes them conspicuous.  It seems likely, then, that Eliot is drawing our attention to these lines, and so we ought to ask ourselves why he does that.  

In the first of the non-rhyming lines, the speaker compares the evening sky to "a patient etherized upon a table": hardly a positive image.  It implies a haziness, a confused muddle, even a lack of consciousness and control.  It certainly sets the scene and begins to establish the disillusioned mood of the poem.  The second of these lines describes "an overwhelming question" to which one is led after following streets that have some "insidious intent."  The ellipsis at the end of the line implies that we may yet find out what that question is.  It seems as though these lines are sort of left hanging as a result of their lack of end rhyme, and this draws our attention to them and their meanings and implications. 

rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

T. S. Eliot uses sound in beautiful and intriguing ways in his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Three sound devices he uses are consonance, alliteration, and assonance. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds, usually those that fall in the middle or at the end of words. Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds, and assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. An example of consonance appears in the first stanza. Look at how many words have "s" and "t" or "st" sounds: let, against, patient, deserted, streets, muttering, retreats, restless, nights, hotels, sawdust, oyster, tedious, argument, insidious, intent, it, visit. The repetition of these sounds over and over again add to the quiet, even mysterious, feel of the evening being described. Alliteration can be found several places. Lines 17, 18, and 19 all start with a word that starts with "L": licked, lingered, let. This is another soft sound and lends a slow, easy, tired feeling that goes along with the scene. Another excellent use of alliteration occurs in line 56: "fix you in a formulated phrase." (Note that alliteration refers to sounds, not letters.) This repetition seems to reinforce the judgmental or critical attitude of those who Prufrock believes are analyzing him. Assonance occurs each time there is a rhyme because rhyming words have the same vowel sounds. Beyond that, however, certain vowel repetitions can help create a mood. In lines 120 and 121, the poem says: "I grow old . . . I grow old . . . / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." The long "O" sound reinforces the plaintive lament coming from the depths of J. Alfred Prufrock's being.

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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