Overview

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T.S. Eliot poured a great deal of attention into the form and style of his poetry. For Eliot, language was both a sensuous field of sound and a means of expressing truth. Thus, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” contains both distinctive musicality and dense layers of meaning.

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As an avant-garde proponent of free verse, Eliot wrote poetry that is loose, unfettered by traditional poetic rules. Yet Eliot grasped that poetry must always contain rhyme and meter; the task of the poet is to choose how to use those tools. As a result, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is marked by both time-honored techniques and a quality of constant surprise.

Eliot was an avid reader of the canon of Western civilization, particularly its works of literature, philosophy, and religion. Thus in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” we find the pressure of his immense learning, which continuously fills each phrase with allusive and symbolic meanings. The poem invites close analysis, slowly yielding its intellectual riches through repeated readings. 

Allusions

Eliot spent his early adulthood studying philosophy and literature at Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Oxford. He was an intellectual and an unapologetic elitist, and his poetry contains abundant allusions... (Read more on Allusions in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.")

Forms and Devices

Any analysis of the work of T.S. Eliot demands a careful look at his use of literary forms and devices. Throughout his career, Eliot sought to develop new modes of poetic expression... (Read more on Forms and Devices in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.")

Quotes

As is so often true in literary analysis, the themes, characters, and allusions of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” shine through the particular passages... (Read more on Quotes in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.")

Symbols

T.S. Eliot brought an intense visual imagination to bear in his poetry, and so his use of symbols and motifs is worth careful consideration... (Read more on Symbols in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.")

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Allusions