In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" why does he keep repeating,”there will be time,there will be time”?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The guidelines of this website allow for one question a day; I rather suspect that you are sneaking in more than that.  I suggest keeping to the guidelines, and submitting the second question that you slid in there tomorrow, or asking your teacher for help. It is a difficult poem to understand without a lot of guidance, so hopefully your teacher can help you if you express the need for it.

In regards to why Prufrock keeps repeating "there will be time," try to put yourself into his shoes.  He is probably a shy, introverted, socially awkward guy (he does compare himself to an ugly crab scuttling on an ocean floor, after all-he has some self-esteem issues) who is trying to muster up the courage to say some pretty bold things to a girl he cares for.  He's probably been trying to say these things for quite some time, because he keeps analyzing possible scenarios, and possible outcomes (he worries she'll scoff at him, reject him, and he'll leave, dejected while they all stare at him).  So, if there has ever been something that you really know that you should do, but are really scared to do it, what do you do?  Most people make excuses; they procrastinate and find other things to do first, putting it off for as long as they can.  So, when Prufrock says, "there will be time," it is almost like he is arguing with himself.  One part of him really, really just wants to get it over with, but then the insecure part of him keeps interjecting and saying, "What's the rush?  She's not going anywhere,  The tea-parties aren't going anywhere.  The scene never changes-there will be plenty of time to state your feelings.  There will be time, some other day, to take the leap."  His repetition of that phrase is his fear and insecurities stepping in and giving him the excuse to put it off yet one more day.  Does that make sense?  It's like if you finally get the courage to do something brave, you're about to do it, then bam.  You chicken out, and to console yourself, you say, "What's the big deal?  There will be time to try again; just do it next time!"  I hope that helps a bit; good luck with the poem, I know it's tricky.

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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