T.S.Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock carries the title which implies that the poem is related to the song of love of a certain person, J Alfred Prufrock. At the same time, the poem stipulates a dramatic situation in which alone speaker, of course, the hero Prufrock, gives out his views and opinions, experience and apprehension. Indeed, from this angle, the poem looks like a monologue, rather a dramatic monologue, as it is spoken in a dramatic situation. The poem may here be likened to Robert Browning‘s The Last Ride Together.
In a love song, the poet’s main concern is to express the passion of love of a particular man or woman, as seen in different sonnets, love poems, and other lyrical verses. The intense passion of love, which may be expressed in diverse manners, constitute the essence of such a love song, Again, the dramatic monologue implies a sort of narrative poem, in which an objective analysis by the speaker, through his love speech expresses his feelings, experiences, and reactions at a certain state of affairs and situations rather too tense to stir him violently.
Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, as already implied, looks like a dramatic monologue, in which the hero gives out his own feelings and fancies. The situation in Prufrock’s life has dramatic suspense, for he is confronted with a problem, which may be of a marriage proposal that he has no courage to speak out. This sense of incapacity leads him to express, in the form of a monologue, his own views, and apprehensions, but there is nothing of the song of love or of the amorous passion of a lover in this monologue.
Prufrock’s song, in fact, though titled as a love song, is no conventional song of love. He differs from the conventional warm-hearted lover of Astrophel and Stella and Amoretti or even of Shakespearean sonnet series. His love has actually no beginning, no middle, and no end. He seems to have no real feeling, no actual intent, no exact purpose. It is doubtful whether he is a serious lover or a man, seeking love as a refuge from the exhaustion of the mechanical urban life of modern times. In reality, he seems to be a resident of a modern metropolis, without any stamina, determination, and strength of purpose.
Prufrock is actually a modern man, a middle-aged average modern man, without any robust personality, steadiness or determination in his plan or purpose. He is rather a neurotic character, created in the urban environment, one who feels easily confused, bewildered, helpless, and not certain of his actual intention or the objective of his pursuit. Prufrock is truly no eager lover, with an intense share in the passion or pang of love. On the other hand, he is an unsteady intellectual of modern metropolitan life, who is prompted to weigh every issue carefully and not responsive to the spontaneity of his emotion, has desires and inclinations, even romantic, but lacks courage and conviction for any bold venture or prompt execution.
Indeed, Alfred Prufrock, as Eliot presents him, is a typical modern man who sees and knows thoroughly well modern life, with all its emptiness, sophistication, and insignificance. The triviality and vanity of this life are patents to him and he has neither any illusion about nor any attachment to this life. Like an over-conscious, rather a despondent intellectual, Prufrock, under the oppressive environment of modern metropolitan life, thinks of himself as a sort of worm, wriggling on the wall. The insignificance of his life is frankly admitted and his narrow approach to this life is heard in his frank confession-“I have measured my life with coffee spoons”.
Prufrock as a dweller of urban civilisation, is, as already indicated, unambitious, rather cowardly, and has no venturesome spirit. He is well conscious of his physical debility and personal limitations and prefers to remain in a state of uncertainty than to run after a big venture and receive a shock as an effect. As a matter of fact, he lacks the vigour of a mind to undertake the stress and strain of eventuality and chooses to evade rather than to act, to postpone, rather than to dare. This consciousness of his own deficiency follows from the deficient environment in which he is forced to live.
Indeed, Prufrock’s monologues serve to reveal the hollowness of modern life, with all its artificiality and insignificance. As an average modern man, as drawn by Eliot, Prufrock is found to suffer from indecision and irresolution, and that is found in the constant repetitions of his love song. In fact, the entire monologue is a penetrative account of an average modern man’s sense of indecision, hesitation and tendency to evasion. There is not the slightest impulse of love, nor anything of passionate attachment to make Prufrock’s monologue a song of love. The whole situation exposes the ironic contradiction, inherent in modern metropolitan living to which Prufrock is a pathetic prey.
The title of the poem, which is quite patent, has little to affirm Eliot’s subject matter. The term “Love Song” has actually an ironic application, whereas the situation is more psychological than physical. What the poet speaks to present here is the emptiness of the human feeling of love and the lack of spontaneity in human emotion in the incongenial environmental effect of modern urban life to which Prufrock belongs. This is, too, ironical in its implication.
Also read: Main theme of the poem ‘Marina’ by T.S.Eliot