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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Which lines from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" provide an example of stream of consciousness?

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As Eliot's speaker offers a dramatic monologue about his indecisiveness and reticence to take social risks, he at times interrupts himself to sink into a deeper subjectivity and morose self-evaluation.
Prufrock's affecting lack of self-worth and self-confidence are expressed when he rehearses some lines that he imagines could make...

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As Eliot's speaker offers a dramatic monologue about his indecisiveness and reticence to take social risks, he at times interrupts himself to sink into a deeper subjectivity and morose self-evaluation.
 
Prufrock's affecting lack of self-worth and self-confidence are expressed when he rehearses some lines that he imagines could make him sound deep and poetic at a social gathering ("Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets. . ."), and then breaks off to edit himself with the stream of consciousness line "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."  Prufrock apparently finds himself so pathetic and stilted in his thoughts that he believes he is undeserving of his very humanity.
 
Immediately following a stanza in which he compares himself to a bit player in Hamlet, the speaker further denigrates himself with the stream of consciousness line "I grow old . . . I grow old . . . I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled" as if his corporeal self is shrinking and withering away.
 
Just before the final stanza in which Prufrock offers a sensual image of mermaids riding the waves, he expresses his belief, in a last line of stream of consciousness, that in contemplating these beautiful creatures he "[does] not think that they will sing to" him. 
 
 
 
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Most of this great poem is a dramatic monologue, in which the narrator delivers an extended reflection on a topic. At some points, though, it slips into stream of consciousness.

In stream of consciousness writing, writers try to portray the way thoughts move through a person's mind. These thoughts tumble one after another, and the mind sometimes jumps from topic to topic in ways that are normal within the mind but uncommon in daily conversation.

In "Prufrock," you can see several examples of stream of consciousness.

Consider this brief stanza:

"In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo."

The first time it occurs in the poem, it is possible the narrator actually saw women walking in and out, and that's what they were talking about. However, when the same lines recur later, it is more likely they are bits of memory that drift in, as the narrator is reminded of something.

After the second time that couplet occurs, you'll find these lines:

"And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)"

That sudden moment of self-consciousness, and that image of hair going thin, is the same kind of self-conscious intrusion that is a common element in stream of consciousness.

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