What parts of the poem reveal the insignificance of Prufrock?

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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There are several points in the poem which reveal Prufrock’s contemplation of his insignificance within society, and possibly even within his own life events.

 Having repeatedly asked himself – or the reader – ‘do I dare?’ in relation, we presume to a revelation of his feelings for another, Prufrock contemplates what is a monumental decision for himself is simply a disturbance in time which can be cancelled in a moment –

 Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

Later he considers the impact his words could have on the stately relationship built on ‘tea and cakes and ices’-

 Have I the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

Then he reflects to see that his ‘crisis’ is paltry and infinitesimal, and there are forces beyond him which are actually in control –

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

There has been much debate upon Eliot’s meaning behind the stanza beginning-

  ‘No! I am not Prince Hamlet,’

asserting that Prufrock, in his prevarication, is just like the tragic figure. However, there is one major element missing; Prufrock is not high-born with destiny dictating his flaw. He is a minor player, as he indicates –

Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

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