What is the significance of the three-peat of the line, So how should I presume?Lines 54, 61, and 68

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tsjoseph | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," like many examples of literary modernism, is concerned with issues of meaning, doubt, and individual significance. 

The speaker in "Prufrock" is riddled with uncertainty; his place in the universe, in life, and in love, seems shaky.  He questions, but appears to find no answers.  The poem as a whole is filled with questions.  The speaker mentions an "overwhelming question" in the first stanza, and later, the dropping of "a question on your plate."  The modern world of Prufrock is a world of indecision, a world of spiritual emptiness.  The speaker watches time pass, but seems to make no real connection to anyone.  Communication is superficial; people are repeatedly misunderstood: "That is not it at all/ That is not what I meant at all."

The speaker, then, bombarded by questions and yet unable to answer, finds himself growing old in a world that seems without meaning.  Like other early modernist pieces, this poem explores the isolated individual afloat without spiritual anchor.  In this context, then, the speaker can not "presume."He can not presume to answer questions, to strike up a human connection, to articulate his or anyone's place in the universe.  His life is instead reduced to minutiae; he has "measured out [his] life with coffee spoons."  He, like other figures of early modernism, can not presume anything.

 

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