What is the theme of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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According to the enotes Study Guide on Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," three themes exist in the poem:

  1. Alienation and Loneliness
  2. Time
  3. Doubt and Ambiguity

The speaker is so alone and lonely that most likely, the "you and I" in the poem represents a dialogue with himself.  He is inept socially, and worries that he will feel "pinned and wriggling on the wall," like an insect being studied, simply from making eye contact with others. 

First, he knows there's time, then he knows that time is running out.  He worries that he will grow old with time and he will be a clown.  And magic and beauty and mermaids will never be for him.

The speaker is filled with doubt and ambiguity (as is the poem, of course).  He is like Hamlet, unable to overcome doubts and questions and indecision and actually do something.  He questions his own existence. 

This peom is extremely complex, but this short breakdown of the poem's themes should help you get a handle them.

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arkenya | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

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What is an excerpt from "love song of j. alfred prufrock" that shows th theme


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