Alienation And Loneliness In The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

Thomas Stearns Eliot, who was born in Missouri (U.S.) in 1888 and died in London, (England) in in 1965, was a writer and poet. He is also considered a frontrunner of the Modernist movement, that spans from 1910s to the 1960s. These characteristics can be seen in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915) The Waste Land (1922) and 4 Quartets (1943); his greatest works. This phase could be highlighted by several breaks with tradition and experimentation. Individualism was therefore essential too. A cultural shock that had to do with this was the World War One (1914 – 1918).

Eliot wielded a robust influence on the Anglo-American culture in the twenties. His innovations in diction, style, and versification kind of revived English poetry; fact that gave him a transcendent importance in the literary aspect. Moreover, in 1948 he won a Nobel Prize among other awards.

Eliot entered into a magnificent friendship with Ezra Pound; another American poet. He truly appreciated Eliot's poetic wit and ingenuity, so he began to collaborate with the publication of his works. In 1922 Eliot released The Waste Land, which was a widespread and complex compilation of disillusionments caused by the Great War. This poem developed the outstanding admiration of critics and followers, ending up being the most influential poetic work of the 20th century. 

But when T. S. Eliot was younger, he longed to become a poet and by 1911 (when he was 25 years old), he had written The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; one of his most symbolic poems. He managed to push out into the consciousness of an adult male, whose low shallowness hinders him from singing the love song he thought it could win the love of the lady he wants to be with. But Prufrock hears inside his mind people commentaries about his shortcomings. He is aware of his impossibilities and scolds himself, causing constant frustration. The continuously setting changes show Prufrock’s emotional distance from the world as he comes to recognize his second-rate status. The work is potent for its range of wit and cleverness, but also for the intensity of character achieved. Nonetheless, the main theme of the article is Alienation and loneliness in the poem. 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' integrates the isolation and alienation of the character to its own advantage as it attempts to establish a constructive dramatic monologue.

Nonetheless, the main theme of the article is Alienation and loneliness in 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. This poem integrates the isolation and alienation of the character to its own advantage as it attempts to establish a constructive dramatic monologue.

According to Karl Max (1976) in his book Capital: “In feudal society humans had not yet developed the means to control the natural world, or to produce enough to be free from famine, or to cure diseases. All social relationships were 'conditioned by a low stage of development of the productive powers of labour and correspondingly limited relations between men within the process of creating and reproducing their material life, hence also limited relations between man and nature”. In other words, this theory gives a name to people's disregard for the things that are proper to their species because they live in a clearly stratified social class society. Individuals become something mechanical within a social class, alienating them from their own humanity.

In effect, the work is somehow a monologue of a local man with feelings of solitude. Prufrock discloses the impotence and unfitness of the typical modern man. Furthermore, numerous frustrated desires are presented throughout the poem. The thoughts of Prufrock make possible the contemplation of The Love Song as a wailing of the character’s rational and bodily inertia and the failure of passionate love.

Prufrock feels unable to look for his rightful love interest because of the eagerness presented in the society. The distrust and apprehension of the protagonist to fail, make his goals much more difficult, despite continuing to fail in his romantic quest. Prufrock thinks on approximate to the woman he loves in the sonnet, but all the same, he does not seize that opportunity since he is unable to act because of his hesitation and nervousness. From Prufrock’s point of view his thoughts are exposed in the poem. He is seemed by the reader as the anti-hero owing to the crisis he goes through. His mind incapacitates him and confine his social aims.

The alienation and loneliness aspects are plainly presented in this particular poem. A concrete astonishing question is inquired by Prufrock, with which he wants to ask a love interest at a communal event. The audience can easily realize that the protagonist doesn’t have the daring enough to approach the women within the event. Prufrock also affirms that people observe him like “an insect sprawling on a pin”. When Prufrock insures that women are careful with him no matter the sober glances they set on his person, other proof of alienation can be seen here. According to Harold Bloom (2011) in his book T.S. Eliot: The American Strain: “From this statement, the element of estrangement is obvious based on the way the character describes himself as an outcast in relation to how the women look at him in disapproval”.

Another illustration of the theme is the character’s obsession with the question he desperately wants to ask. The moment Prufrock considers being alienated is when he is in the middle of the party; he cannot stop postponing the question. In the fifth stanza, when he says “There will be time, there will be time”, it hints that Prufrock begins to understand his loneliness. Accordingly, the persona seems to notice the time ahead as well as its obvious continuity. Based on this, he is capable of being passive and unresponsive to the women in the party. With the phrase “And for a hundred visions and revisions”, the visualization of the time by Prufrock is all in vain. Moreover, the way he uses intertwined lines represents the irresolution to ask the question and increasingly shows how it is impossible for him to socialize with the crowd. However, community alienation can be perceived while the protagonist talks about whether he should approach women in the room: “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”.

On the other hand, we can point out the animal analogies that appear in the poem, since they mean something:

“The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.”

The fog-cat forms a vague etherized-patient parallel that anticipates the concept of sleep and death; signs of isolation too.

But isolation can be highlighted especially when Prufrock asks: “Do I dare?”. This line alone represents the fear that the character has towards the society due to his status as a social outcast. Hence, Prufrock is frightened of the people and make use of voices he has observed as well as the same people he has eyed. His bad opinion about the people around him, makes even Prufrock decide to get away more and more. He would hate to be part of that collective and become as simple as they supposedly are. He prefers to get away from all that crowd, because for him life has nothing new or interesting. It is represented when he avers that he has “measured out his life with coffee spoons”.

The subject of loneliness can be seen in the last stanza, where Prufrock sets up an unreality: he names mermaids that takes place in his life. Given this fantasy, it could be said that the protagonist wishes to enjoy a free life with mermaids and leave behind the loneliness he suffers. In addition, his admiration for these creatures shows his frustration with humans. Because of all this, his desire to always be alone and distant from other individuals is the result of the alienation he is once in, causing him unstoppable loneliness. Prufrock is that archetype of person who stays alone in his room before having to be with people he doesn't like at all. All this is expressed in a dejected and tired tone when talking about what reality causes in him: misfortune. His loneliness is also the result of the pessimism that is presented throughout the play.

The incorporation of “You and I” in the beginning of the poem also discloses instances of solitude. Prufrock looks like he wants to repair to his own character as he expresses his disappointments. Aside, he states “Let us go you and I”, probably because most of the events exposed in the poem occur inside his mind. It may be that even Prufrock has never left the room that has been discussed before. This poem reflects a considerable criticism about modern man and his morals and immoralities, where the superficiality of society, indifference in all aspects and even capitalist barbarism influences. This! It ends up devastating man, reducing him a apathetic and passive UN Being. It could be then said that the poem is a kind of monologue in which the characters, “You” and “I”, are merely one single person. This fact would be the peak of his loneliness, because he would be speaking to himself during the entire work. Even to avoid arguing with a real third person, Prufrock invents people inside his head within rationality. In this way, the character 'You' is a way of visualizing insistence and vitality, but nevertheless 'I' is part of an intimate and passive aspect that he does not want to reject either.


  • Bagchee, Shyamal. '' Prufrock': An Absurdist View of the Poem.' ESC: English Studies in Canada 6.4 (1980): 430-443.
  • Baig, Mahrukh. 'A comparative analysis of Ezra Pound’s in A station of the metro and T. S. Eliot’s The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock.' Journal of Arts and Humanities 1.2 (2012): 108-111.
  • Bloom, Harold. T.S. Eliot. Bloom's Literary Criticism, 2011, pp. 65-76.
  • Eliot, Thomas Stearns. 'The hollow men.' PUB DATE 85 NOTE 281p.; Developed by participants of the 1985 Summer Humanities Institute in Literary Criticism and the Teaching of Literature. For other volumes, see CS 213 (1925): 52.
  • Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Strelbytskyy Multimedia Publishing, 2019.
  • Hamilton, William. 'The New Optimism—From Prufrock to Ringo.' Theology Today 22.4 (1966): 479-490.
  • Marx, Karl. El capital: tomo I. Vol. 1. e-artnow, 2013.
16 August 2021
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