T.S. Eliot has been one of the most prominent poets of the Modern Age. His works mainly emphasised modernism and its side effects. He has written many poems and among them, one is The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The poem is full of indecisiveness as the narrator in the poem is unsure of whether any girl will like him or not.
He tries to focus on styling his hair or cleaning his dress or doing the attics which can impress a woman but then he looks at his appearance and feels none of the women will ever pay attention to him and he will remain single throughout. The poem is also full of monotony as it focuses on the daily routine of the narrator and the pace he enters is far from being glamorous and delightful.
He feels that everything in the place is moving very slow unlike what he wants which makes him feel suffocated and he wants to leave the place as soon as possible as he feels that he does not belong there. He discusses so much about impressing and proposing to a woman but when it comes to action he is unable to do anything.
He is very anxious about his appearance and everything related to him. He wants to look as prim and proper as possible but is surrounded by dilemma and confusion of what he will do and where it will lead him to. He has a very pessimistic point of view about everything which makes him unwelcoming towards everything that is happening around him and he just leaves his surroundings without doing anything.
Although the narrator looks very bland and boring from the outside he also has many inert desires and secrets which he does not want anybody to know. He also wants to communicate his romantic desires to a girl but is unable to do so. Despite being a love song, the poem never talks or discusses love in detail. It shows false attempts and half baked thoughts of the narrator who tries to connect with people but cannot express himself properly.
He is unable to overcome his communication barriers with people
which makes him feel lonely and dejected even when he is sitting in a place
that is full of different people. His inability to communicate makes him feel
that if he will express his feelings to anyone he will be misunderstood.
Even in his imagination, the speaker feels disappointed as he is unable to communicate himself properly and he wants to hide somewhere deep so that he becomes invisible and nobody can understand what he feels. His disappointment is so dominant that he feels that his inner desires will remain unfulfilled.
The poem also talks about different techniques and technologies which have been invented in the 20th century like light or medical techniques but also talks about alienation that comes with these advancements. These technologies make us feel alienated and isolated from the rest of the world which gives birth to loneliness and desolation.
The area he walks across to go through the party is filled with fog which is trying to get inside every house through windows or other ways but its struggle continues. He walks along the streets but hardly talks to anyone as the streets are half deserted. He finds fog to be more alive than anything else.
He feels that there is something that is emotionally dead and alienated as the empty social rituals have taken over the modern world. Modern literature often criticized the traditional figures who demanded authority. The poem criticizes religion, literature and respected people of Western culture which makes the speaker pessimistic and isolated about his disappearing connection to those traditions.
The protagonist is not portrayed as a great figure but instead, he becomes an object of mockery and humour. He feels that he cannot match himself to all the literary characters portrayed in the past and he is simply a nameless Fool. He does not take any inspiration or strength from the ancient literary figures as they leave him disheartened and isolated instead of filling him with positive vibes.
The poem suggests that despite having all the technical comforts and wealth of the modern era there is something that is very alienating when a person experiences the world in a new way. The narrator says that he feels an inability to participate in the social life of the world around him or relate to any literary reference which has come before him. Modernity does not help him in connecting with others, instead, it leaves him feeling lonely and dejected.
There are many symbols used in this poem to enhance its beauty. Some of the prominent symbols used in the poem are fog and toast and tea. The fog is introduced to us at the beginning of the poem when the speaker asks us to take a walk with him on the half-deserted streets. He has said that the fog is yellow because of the streetlights and lamps and also the smog which surrounds the city.
The yellow colour of the fog is the symbol of modern life which encompasses industrial production and technology. The fog dominates the streets and homes of people who reside in that area. The inability to escape the fog shows the harmful effects of pollution in a modern city. The fog gives a sense of uneasiness to the poem and shows that the world is full of corruption, sadness and darkness.
The fog is also linked to a cat which adds to the sense of uneasiness to the narration. The fog looks like a living organism that is more lively than the humans surrounding it and also symbolizes the isolation and alienation of the narrator in a foggy and modern world. The toast and tea symbolize the bland and boring modern life though it was an afternoon ritual to consume toast and tea at the onset of the 20th century.
Thus, we can conclude that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is more of a satire on the modern world which is dull, bland and boring and also shows how an individual had become with the arrival of modernism.