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Home » , » The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock as an dramatic monologue

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock deals with a modern man’s indecision to make the proposal of marriage to his ladylove. Through a dramatic monologue the lover analyses the reason for irresolution and indecision and tries to justify his cowardice and lack of nerves. 

The techniques of the poem are based on the use of dramatic monologue, of the rhythm of colloquial speech, imagery drawn from contemporary life, the use of literary allusions and a sudden transition from lyric intensity to terse ironic realism. The dramatic monologue which Eliot learnt from the metaphysical poets, is a distinct form by means of which he has dramatized the problem of Prufrock. The poem starts in a colloquial manner, “Let us go then, you and I’, and this manner continues in the whole of the opening passage. “Oh, do not ask .. Let us go and make our visit”. But this is not the style followed throughout the poem. Of course, it occurs again and again : “They will say, how his hair is growing thin”. “So how should I presume?” “And how should I begin.” “That is not it at all;/That is not what I meant, at all.” At the same time we find a heightened literary style, too. “No, I Am not Prince Hamlet ...” Thus the colloquial expression changes in accordance with the mood of the speaker. 

The same is the case with the versification which is flexible, and which varies to suit the turn of thought and feeling. The metrical base is iambic, but we have short lines and long lines, and the rhyme scheme is irregular as is the stanza pattern. There is such a terse line as “Do I dare?” and we have the repetitive rhythm of the line : “For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse”. 

The imagery of the poem is unusual, too. It is entirely untraditional. Only the metaphysical poets of the 17th century could have used the image of the evening “spread out against the sky like a patient etherised upon a table”, to convey a mood of inactivity and listlessness. A similar image in terms of a conceit, is that of streets that follow like a tedious argument ...” yet another image of that kind may be traced in the description of the fog which is compared to a cat in terms of its movement and behaviour. 

Another remarkable feature of Eliot’s style is his use of allusions. The literary allusions in the poem are a part of the device of suggestiveness. There are references here to Andrew Marvell (“and indeed there will be time”), to Hesiod (“works and days”), to Shakespeare (“a dying fall”), to Donne (“arms that are bracelated”), to the Bible (John the Baptist, Lazarus, etc.) and so on. The use of literary allusions has made the poem very learned and at places obscure. 

To sum up, Eliot’s technique of writing poetry is quite new. Almost all of his poems are dramatic and this is no exception in the case of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. It embodies all the important dramatic elements such as dramatic beginning, swift movement, tension, lyrical sweep, irony, condensation, and psychological insight, etc. 


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