What Types Of Images Does The Speaker Return To Throughout “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock”?
T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a complex meditation on the modern human experience. The poem’s speaker, Prufrock, simultaneously muses on the perpetual stagnation of his life and the inability to make meaningful decisions. Throughout the poem, Eliot uses imagery to both further his themes and frame Prufrock’s perspective. There are a few images that appear frequently throughout the poem, exploring Prufrock’s sense of isolation and insignificance.
The City and the Sea
The imagery of the city and the sea is found throughout the poem. The city symbolizes Prufrock’s isolation in modern society and serves as a backdrop to his reflection. He is surrounded by a world of deafeningly silent “urban streets,” where he is unable to make meaningful connections or decisions. It is also described as a world of “half-deserted streets” and “one-night cheap hotels,” a desolate world where “the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” While Prufrock feels suffocated by the city, his longing for meaningful human connection and escape leads him towards the imagery of the sea. The sea symbolizes a realm of possibility and potential where change, growth, and emotion are in constant flux.
The Old People
Throughout the poem, Prufrock is constantly aware of the presence of old people, who represent a reminder of mortality and stagnation. He often uses imagery of old people’s “weak eyes” and “weak knees” to illustrate his sense of insignificance, and his fear of being trapped in a state of inertia. This imagery serves to highlight his feeling of being trapped in a perpetual state of inaction, symbolizing his need for some kind of change and growth in his life.
The White Arms and Perfumes
Towards the end of the poem, Prufrock has noticed the women’s arms – white and bare, and wearing bracelets – just as he is attracted by the smell of the perfume on the women’s dresses. These images serve to illustrate his attraction to a potential romantic encounter, which he fears is unattainable. The image of the white arms and perfume is a reminder of Prufrock’s sense of isolation, and his fear of failure in reaching out to others.
The Scarab Beetle
Finally, Eliot uses the ancient Egyptian religious symbol of the Scarab beetle to illustrate Prufrock’s feelings of insignificance. The Scarab beetle was believed to roll the sun across the sky, symbolizing the eternal passage of time. In the poem, Prufrock compares himself to the Scarab beetle, asking if his own actions will have any kind of impact on the world. This imagery serves to emphasize the speaker’s feelings of insignificance and inability to make a meaningful impact.
In conclusion, T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is an exploration of the modern human experience. Eliot uses imagery of the city and the sea, old people, the white arms and perfumes, and the Scarab beetle to depict Prufrock’s sense of isolation and inability to make meaningful decisions. These images create a vivid portrait of the speaker’s inner world and illuminate the themes of the poem.