In the poem T.S Eliot employs his theory of objective correlative on descriptions of the background to reflect Prufrock¡¦s essential emotion, and the form of disjointed section, ellipses, anxious questions to build up the atmosphere of modern world as well as mental anxiety, frustration of modern people.
The depiction of modern world is a world of lethargy, and sterile, and its people are suffocated by hypocrisy, triviality, always afraid to take decision, risk, a life of death in life.
The allusion to Dante¡¦s Inferno is to imply both the hellish modern world and Prufrock¡¦s hesitation, afraid to speak out, afraid to change and afraid of its consequence. In this sense, he bears his own frustration and isolation and this further indicates the impossibility of effective communication between modern people.
The title of the poem is itself an irony, for Eliot combine ¡§love song¡¨ with J. Alfred Prufrock ¡V J with the initial suggest the person¡¦s hiding something, and frock suggests acting like an old maid.
In the beginning, he invites himself to a visit, which is both a physical and mental journey. The atmosphere of the first stanza is gloomy, dirty, cheap and sick ¡§ the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table.¡¨. With a sense of isolation and frustration ¡§ half-deserted streets¡¨ he tried to repress himself the first time by stopping ¡§you¡¨ to ask, ¡§what is it?
¡§ In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Michelangelo.¡¨ These phrase intrudes two times in the poem, Eliot here deliberately make us compare the time of Renaissance and modern world. Now people talk about art in only a superficial level. Like the sterile middle and lower class society ¡§ night cheap hotels, men in shirt sleeves¡¨, the upper class is also decadent.
The city is like a lazy cat, with focus on words like ¡§fog¡¨ ¡§smoke¡¨ ¡§ drains¡¨ ¡§chimney¡¨, Eliot¡¦s modern city is an unpleasant, sleepy, and isolated place just like Prufrock.
Prufrock tries several times to comfort himself that ¡§ there will be time¡¨ and deferring whatever he should speak or act. There will be time for his to wear a social mask to face indirectly by hiding and disguising his true self and there will be time to take bold action ¡§ murder and create¡¨ and times for hundreds indecision. It is this attitude that makes Prufrock a tragic character, for he not only lacks courage but also cheating himself and till his old there still nothing to be done.
Prufrock is actually aware of the world and society he is in and his own life, a world that full of triviality, society¡¦s hypocrisy and superficiality. However, he feels fixed and unable to move that implies he knows that or he feels that he is unable to change anything. Besides, the pressings of limited time, his physical decay, are reasons of his feeling of anxiety. ¡§ pinned and wriggling on the world¡¨. He knows his life is measured out with coffee spoons, he hopes there will be a change, but all he can do is passively hesitating ¡§ do I dare? Do I dare? Disturb the universe?¡¨
He grows more passive when he envies the cat ¡§ and the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully.¡¨ Again, all he is able to do is pray, hesitate, doubting himself, fearing the outcome, and though he is more aware of his getting old, he still negates himself. ¡§Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, though I have seen my head (grow slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet ¡V and here¡¦s no great matter.¡¨ ¡§ that¡¦s not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.¡¨
¡§ It is impossible to say just what I mean!¡¨ the inarticulacy of modern people. He share with Hamlet the indecisive characteristic, however, unlike Hamlet, a noble melancholy tragic hero, only takes his necessary action on the final moment, Prufrock is satisfied to be a minor character.
The mermaids are symbols of vitality, youth and life, which is absent in both modern world and Prufrock. The mermaids evoke a more mysterious and imaginative world. And although he can imagine the mermaids are singing, he presumes that they can never sing to him. In the last few stanzas, the dictions also become more lyrical, for instance the alliteration in words of ¡§ waves¡¨ ¡§white¡¨ and ¡§water¡¨ are soothing. And the images convey Prufrock¡¦s longing for beauty and love, but the poem returens to the trivial human voices and wakes us from fantasy. The sea represents reality, for the mermaids it is a life giving sea, but to Prufrock , he drawn into the modern world of self-allusion which is death in life and with only an image of passive and negative self.
Prufrock is a modern anti-hero, who trapped in the hell of modern world and his own deficiency. He is aware of he is a living dead and longs for something different, at the same time he fears the consequence of changes and dares not to take action until it is too late.
The speaker use ¡§ we¡¨, ¡§ you and I¡¨, it is like Prufrock, a man is shy and timid, speaking to himself and only within himself. The whole poem is his inner struggle of to say or not to say, to change or not to change.