Why is the allusion regarding "squeezing time into a ball" relevant in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"?

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kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prufrock asks himself – or the reader – whether the great question he has been contemplating would have made a difference to his or other’s lives

   And would it have been worth it, after all,

 The allusion indicated is the sixth line of this stanza, and the next written to rhyme with the first. The allusion refers to compacting all of the disparate ideas, worries and implications of his connection with the other person. Prufrock’s concern is that once he had compressed all of his emotions and distilled his true feelings, they would still not be clearly understood-

 If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all."

It is relevant, as Prufrock has been trying to express himself throughout the poem and sees the effect of being imprecise and inaccurate as disastrous. The allusion can work as a kind of bowling reference -

To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

 There is some reward in the ‘strike’, but it also signals destruction. The 'miss' means no recognition at all.

Read the study guide:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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