The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
This poem is the earliest mature one wrote by T.S. Eliot.
In the beginning of this poem, there is an epigraph, which comes from Dante's Divine. This epigraph is a replying from Guido to Dante's question in hell. The replying is "If I thought my answer were to one who ever could return to the world, this flame should shake no more. But since none ever did return alive this depth, if what I hear be true, I answer you without fear of infamy." This epigraph is just like ink dropped on a white paper and the paper became diffused by the drop. Namely, it can be the very beginning thought of the speaker.
In the speaker's mind, he is like Guido in hell. As we know, Hell is a very terrible place where people will be tortured. The speaker also thinks that he is also tortured by the society that is just like people in hell. He is not happy at all.
In the first stanza, the speaker makes everything and everywhere lifeless. In my first reading, I thought there are two people walking together, but actually, there is only one person, because "you" is the inner self of the speaker. He alone walks down the street. During the walking, the speaker's physical body keeps on walking routinely but his inner self wants to figure out some confusion. However, the speaker wants to find out the answer by himself without hesitates. The description is so common and full of disorderliness, such as "The muttering retreats / Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells."
"In the room íK / Talking of Michelangelo," these two lines standers for the place where the speaker wants to visit, because the woman who he adores is at the party in the room.
In the later stanza, the yellow fog never stops its contact with any place. The yellow fog is like a cat who uses its body to have contact with everything as possible as it can. The yellow fog may be the expression of the speaker's, because he is too lonely so he desires to have contact with people, especially the woman who he likes. Through the description, we can find out that actually the speaker wants to have not only mental contact but also physical contact with the woman. Because "cat" is a symbol of sexuality, and the speaker also longs for having sex with the woman.
It is difficult for him to visit the party, because he is afraid of people's attitudes towards him. Therefore, on the way to the party, he tells himself that there will be time for him to make a decision. He can't stop thinking that how women at the party will treat him, so he starts to think that how he should face them. The speaker always keeps on thinking and hesitating. He can't have a decision about whether he should do or not.
Although he has made up his mind to show his love to the woman, on the way to the party, several excuses come to his mind and forbid him to do it. When he arrives at the room, he doesn't go inside but turn back. He is lack of confidence, hence, he can't make any decisions. Although he does make up his mind to visit the woman, he can regret at any moment. The speaker doesn't dare to do anything. He can't use his love but he has developed an illusion in his mind and his illusion keeps him from turning desire into actions. He keeps on using excuses to comfort his desires. Actually, he has limited himself for a long time, but he is never aware of it.
He is so isolated and he lives in his own world. Although the speaker is like Guido in hell, but he is unlike because he can't do what he wants to do. When a person is full of desire to do something, but he doesn't dare to do, he will become extremely depressed. It will become more painful in his life. This kind of person will never succeed because he has no courage to deal with his life. When a person's frustrations become more and more, he will get lost in his life, and then has no confidence to live. This speaker is the right person who get frustrated in his life and live in his own illusion, so he chooses to kill himself instead of living longer.
If the speaker can have courage to put his desires into actions, he will know how to face himself and deal with everything around him. Therefore, I think that he must be more painful than Guido in hell, because his illusion is more terrible than the life in hell. If people want to succeed, they have to face their frustrations.
The reason why Queen Elizabeth could become the greatest queen in England is that she knew to face her failures and faced each difficulty bravely. Nobody can do everything without frustrations. If he can know why he fails and try to do it again, he will know how to deal with his life. I think that the love song is kept in the speaker's mind and never been revealed. The speaker's body and this love song drawn together.