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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How does Eliot depict modern life in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"?

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This poem is often compared to Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquey in that it expresses the speaker's alienation and lonlieness and confusion. In fact, Prufrock refers to this in the poem:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

In this poem, the speaker is carrying on the same type of self dialogue and analysis. He is overwhelmed by his situation, the plight of the so-called modern man who is full of doubts about the meaning of life and his place in it. He continually questions himself, expresses doubts (do I dare? and do I dare?), and finds himself socially alienated and incapable of the human contact that he so desires.

He not only expresses these self-doubts about his present situation, but also fears the future -

I grow old, I grow old

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

The pessimism of modern society permeates this poem - the same pessimism Eliot expresses in most of his works -- look at some of the titles: The Waste Land, The Hollow Men. Even this poem is just the opposite of a "lovesong".

There is so much more to say about it, but this will get you started. Read the excellent analysis of the theme of modernism here on eNotes.

And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

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