In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" what is implied in the observation, repeated twice, that women drop in and out, "Talking of Michelangelo" ?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The implication of this quote here is that the women at these parties are talking of trivial, non-important things.  They are discussing art, which today might be the equivelant of discussing the latest t.v. show or rock album that has come out.  He repeats this phrase to emphasize that at these tea-parties, the women and men do not discuss anything important, anything profound, anything serious, or anything that could be life-changing, distressing or deep.  He is frustrated with this; he feels that life is just a series of monotonous and meaningless conversation; he feels like he has "measured out [his] life with coffee spoons" instead of meaningful experiences.  So, the repetition is to emphasize the shallow nature of his social gatherings in contrast to the more serious experiences and discussions that he wants to have.

The repetition also emphasizes how the conversations at the parties are so shallow compared to whatever question he wants to ask the woman that is alluded to in the poem.  Whatever that question is (many believe it is a marriage proposal), it is big.  It is serious.  It is life-changing.  It is deep and profound.  He compares asking it to "rolling the universe into a ball", to "disturn[ing] the universe", to "murder[ing] and creat[ing]", to a "crisis".  So, take those descriptions, and compare it to the trivial discussions of "Michaelangelo".  No wonder he kind-of chickens out, and after asking, "would it have been worth it" to ask that question in such a setting, to such a woman, decides "No!".

I hope those thoughts help; it's a tricky poem at times.  Good luck!

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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