The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Evolution of Attitude in Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Evolution of Attitude in Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

T. S. Eliot’s notoriously opaque “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” can be interpreted only by acknowledging that the speaker’s thought process is not consistent throughout but an ongoing process. On first reading, the poems stanzas seem to belong to separate plots or lines of thought, but unity can be perceived if we think of the structure of the poem as reflective of the developing mental state of the speaker, with certain longer stanzas representing the processing of an attitude and other shorter groups of lines portraying an epiphanous or especially problematic moment precipitating a shift in the attitude of the speaker. The progress of the speaker’s attitude looks as follows: the speaker first believes it is useless to inquire into meaning, he then ponders whether he might create meaning by doing something great, he decides it is too late for him to do anything great, he wonders whether it might have been worthwhile to do something meaningful, and finally he decides there was no meaning to be found after all.

The first indication of the speaker’s attitude comes early when he compares the evening to “a patient etherised upon a table” (3) and attributes...

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