The Love Song of J.A. Prufrock
In this poem, Eliot does an analysis of modern society, and he writes about the emptiness of values. That is to say, modern man is unconscious of the world around him, he is an ‘’etherized patient upon the table’’, that cannot react.
The title of this poem is strange and ironic, because Prufrock is a way to say the protagonist of this ‘’love song’’ is a man to proof of rock, that is to say his personality is impenetrable
However, the title is very important because it underlines the absence of inner values and feelings in modern man.
In this poem, Eliot uses the technique of the interior monologue to objectify the main message of the poem.
Another writer that uses this technique is Robert browning; in Eliot it is just an interior monologue, whereas in browning it is a dramatic monologue, that is to say a monologue that has a dialogic quality.
The epigraph at the beginning of the poem is used by Eliot to underline the objectivity of his analysis.
This epigraph is taken from ‘’canto’’ 27 of Dante’s ‘’inferno’’; in this ‘’canto’’ Guido Da Montefeltro is in hell, and he says there is no reason to lie, because he is in the hell, and nobody comes alive from hell.
Eliot wants to say he cannot lie; he has to say only the truth, because modern society is like the hell.
So, the narrator of this poem is the human being that wants to know the truth.
Eliot does not use rhyme, and the lines are not uniform in length, because he uses the ‘’verse libre’’, that was used for the first time by Jules Laforgue.
Repetitions represent a desperate attempt of thinking, because in the modern [standardized]Society a serious question least its meaning and life becomes only a physiological fact.
Eliot uses the repetitions to reinforce the message.
The changing verse pattern represent the fragmentation of the self.
Eliot uses the technique of ‘’inverted quotation’’ to objectify the message; this quotation is emptied of its original meaning to explain modern society’s mentality, so, to put in evidence the true tragedy.
In the first section, there are city images: there are deserted streets; yellow fog is personified: it is like a cat. In the poem, the figure of modern man is not full, but there are pieces of body (face, hands…); the only human figure that is full, completely, is the etherized patient.
The figure of the ‘’etherized patient upon the table’’ represents the modern man; so, he is unconsciousness of the world around him, that is emptied of all values. Therefore, man is unconsciousness of the tragedy of his time.
Like the figure of the etherized patient, the yellow fog represents the unconsciousness of man: because the yellow fog, he is isolated from the world.
Another image is that of the women talking about Michelangelo: they are bithes, so, the figure of Michelangelo, which is the symbol of Italian renaissance’s art perfection, in this context, it is emptied of its original value.
After, there is the inverted quotation of hamlet by Shakespeare.
Eliot say: ‘’no! I am not the prince hamlet, nor was meant to be!’’; so hamlet is the symbol of tragedy, and Eliot, with this inverted quotation, wants to underline the absence of tragedy in this emptied society.
The mermaids that are ‘’singing each to each’’ represent another inverted quotation: in Ulysses they were singing to the others, but now, in this society, we can’t hear they, so, we can’t now the truth, because they are ‘’singing each to each’’.
Eliot compares the past society and modern society. In the first, there were the most important artists like Michelangelo, the symbol of activity, or the figure of Dante, who wanted to know the truth; so, past society was the most thriving period for culture, art and religion (the figure of San Giovanni Battista, for his faith). In opposition, there is the modern society with the emptying of values and its banalities. Man can save himself only in the sea, because it represents his origin and his regeneration. In fact, if we dive into the sea, ‘’human voices will wake us’’, so, we can save ourselves; however, if we do not dive into the sea, we will drown.