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The poem begins with Prufrock inviting us to take a walk with him, but we soon learn that this isn’t some romantic tree-line avenue by the river. Quite the opposite, it seems to be the seediest part of town. True to Prufrock’s circular and evasive style, the poem returns several times to the imagery of these gritty streets, with contrast with the prim and proper middle-class life he seems to lead. Just like our narrator, the streets are misleading and go nowhere.
Prufrock suggests that he might be better suited to living in the deep, cold, lonely ocean than in the society of other people. We think he’s on to something. But when he ends up in the ocean through some crazy, dream-like turn events at the end of the poem, he doesn’t do very well. In fact, he drowns.
Prufrock spends most of the poem cooped up in rooms, eating, drinking, and overhearing other people’s conversations. He also fantasizes a lot about entering rooms – perhaps bedrooms – where the woman he loves can be found. Always the pessimist, he images a woman leaning on a pillow who rejects him. At the end of the poem, he just might have found the perfect room for him: at the bottom of the ocean.
The poem ends with some amazing ocean imagery, including the singing mermaids and the sea-girls wearing seaweed. In one of the poem’s most creative metaphors, the white-capped waves are compared to "white hair."
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