illustration of a woman holding a glass of wine and a man, Prufrock, standing opposite her

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T. S. Eliot
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What is Prufrock afraid will happen if he asks his "overwhelming question?" In what thought does he take comfort? "The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock"  by  T.S. Eliot

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Prufrock is a man that is all too familiar with what he is. He has aged in life, his hair has thinned and he has become frail, and yet he still wishes to make some sort of impact on the world. He wants to dare to "disturb the universe." He...

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Prufrock is a man that is all too familiar with what he is. He has aged in life, his hair has thinned and he has become frail, and yet he still wishes to make some sort of impact on the world. He wants to dare to "disturb the universe." He knows that he is no prophet or man of particular significance, and yet he is very intelligent and self-aware.

Prufrock is afraid to ask his overwhelming question quite simply because he fears that the results will be underwhelming. He worries that he will be misunderstood, to have to explain that that is not what he meant, whereas the satisfaction of the moment of being "Lazarus back from the dead" would be to say something profound and have it immediately change the minds of his audience.

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If he asks his question, he is afraid they won't understand him, or they will essentially shrug him off as having nothing important to say.  He worries that he will work himself up to make a grand, prophetic statement, and no one will listen to him anyway, or truly understand what he has been trying to say. 

He seems to take comfort in the fact that he is a follower, not a leader.  As he says, "No! I am no Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be."  He feels that even though he hasn't ever done anything important/significant with his life, maybe that's okay because he was never an important or significant person anyway.  No one ever expects much of the "attendant lord" in the play.  So he can "grow old" and "wear the bottoms of [his] trousers rolled," and forget about the dreams he had of being important in the world.

Much like the flame from Dante's Inferno (quoted at the beginning of the poem), Prufrock feels confident in telling his story because he knows that nothing will ever really come of it anyway.

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