The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Analysis of Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" begins with an epigraph from Dante's Inferno. Translated, it reads: "If I thought that I was speaking/ to someone who would go back to the world,/ this flame would shake no more./ But since nobody has ever/ gone back alive from this place, if what I hear is true,/ I answer you without fear of infamy." The speaker in this case will only tell his story with the knowledge that living ears will never hear it. Eliot's Prufrock faces the same situation; he has a story to tell - a love song to sing - that he didn't have the courage to declare among the living. Only now, where nobody can hear him, can Prufrock finally say what cannot be said. He has been condemned to a kind of hell by his inaction.

This hell is cast in a yellow light. Images of yellow overwhelming the landscape abound: "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, the yellow smoke that rubs its back upon the window-panes" (15-16). Yellow is a color associated with cowardice. Fittingly, Prufrock's world is cast in this yellow light because his world is a world of cowardice. His inability to speak his feelings and the fear of what implications that would hold...

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