T. S. Eliot's poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” lends itself to many different areas of analysis and interpretation. Let's brainstorm a few possibilities.
We might begin by examining the poem for characteristics of modernism. We can see that the poem is highly experimental. Notice how Eliot begins with a quotation in Italian (without translating it) and how he fails to use a traditional rhyme scheme or metrical pattern (although rhymes and meters do appear irregularly). The poem is also focused on individualism, particularly the thoughts and ideas of a single speaker who is often obsessed with himself (like his thinning hair, his trousers, and his questioning). Further, there are certainly elements of the absurd in this poem. The “evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table” is not a standard simile by any means.
The poem's modernism is also revealed in its symbolism. The women who talk about Michelangelo point to pretension. The fog symbolizes life in the modern city. Eating and drinking are symbolic of daily existence. Modernist poets also view their poetry as a craft to be carefully structured and highly original. We can see this in Eliot's poem in his repetitions, his dense vocabulary, and his multiple allusions (to Lazarus and Hamlet, for instance).
An analysis of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” might also examine the poem's use of figurative language. The yellow fog or yellow smoke is like a cat rubbing on the window panes and then curling up around a house and falling asleep in a vivid extended metaphor. Further, the speaker feels as though he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall” as if he were a bug in a collection to be exhibited before the world.
We might also look at Eliot's overall themes in this poem as part of an analysis. Anxiety stands at the head of these themes as the speaker questions constantly what he is to do and if he dares to do it. He seems indecisive, afraid to act. He does not even know if he should eat a peach. He is also alienated from the world, from the women speaking of Michelangelo, from his female companion, from society. Yet desire is still active in him. He is attracted to his companion, noticing the perfume of her dress and her arms, yet again he fails to act, not knowing how to respond to his desire.
Finally, an analysis of Eliot's poem might include a look at the poem's structures. It contains uneven stanzas, many pauses (indicated by ellipses), some rhyme scattered throughout, parallelism between some stanzas, and many repetitions. These elements all contribute to the poem's overall meaning.