The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T.S Eliot

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window- panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window- panes

Licked its tongue into the concerns of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

Reference :- These erotic lines have been taken from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” written by one of the most analyzed critics T.S. Eliot.

Context :-  The poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a modernistic poem in the form of a dramatic monologue which centers on holding, insecure middle- aged man. He expresses his thoughts about the dull, uneventful, mediocre life he leads, as a result of his feelings of inadequacy and his fear of making decisions. Unable to seize opportunities or to take risks (especially with women) He has described that he lives in a world that is the same today as it was yesterday and will be the same tomorrow as it is today. He does try to make progress, but his timidity and fear of failure inhibit him from taking action.

Explanation :-  In the given lines, the metaphor of a cat is first and most apparent. Eliot uses phrases such as “rub its back”, “rubs its muzzle”, “sudden leap”, “curled once about the house” and others to clearly point out the metaphor. With this, it is important to look into the reasoning behind the cat imagery. By nature, cats are not very sociable creatures. T.S. Eliot compares Prufrock to the cat in the given stanza. It fits his characterization well; Prufrock has a very hard time socializing with others (specially with women), and spends the entire poem trying to bring himself to talk to just one girl.

However, Eliot does not simply use metaphor to convey this in the stanza; careful words choice also leads to the same depiction. Prufrock refers to “yellow fog” and “yellow smoke”, which ties back to his own mind; clouded. He cannot act and is paralyzed, blocked by his own thoughts. The color yellow, often associated with cowardice, just supplements this idea. Further, the use of the word “lingered” shows us the notion of being reluctant to act.

Finally, when looking at the story of the cat as a whole in this stanza, nothing is accomplished. The cat essentially moves around in the night, but by the end it just “fell asleep”. In the same way as Prufrock, the cat did not act any significant way. Thus, T.S. Eliot’ use of an extended metaphor, coupled with some other literary techniques, paints Prufrock as a socially isolated character.

Critical Comment :- ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot has been centered around the world where, M.L. Rosenthal has commented that ‘Prufrock’ evidences a strongly adolescent flavor, asserting that the poem positively sweats panic at the challenge of the adult sexuality and living up to one’s ideal of what it is to be manly in any sort of heroic model, Another critic Ann P. Brady has written that Eliot was aware of this, maintaining that the poem reflects Prufrock back from the world in which he moves in a clinically hard way and that this contrast with romantic aspirations, the juxtaposition of lyricism with the tone of satire which creates the modernist tension.

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