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S’ io credessi che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcum, s’ i’ odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti respondo.
These lines are directly from one of Dante’s Inferno. It is used to suggest the true identity of Prufrock – in which he is, dammed a soul… The direct translation is: "If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would ever return to this world, this flame would stay without further movement; but as no one has returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear or infamy.” The introductory line leads us to a dramatic monologue because Eliot uses “you,” and with that, Prufrock is the only one talking, not to a reader, but perhaps a fictional character. Eliot announces the idea of prostitution when saying “in onenight cheap hotels” and created a sketchy-environment saying, “through certain half-deserted streets,” and “sawdust restaurants with oyster shells.” Oysters could mean one of two things; they are highly known for symbolizing a fancy meal, or provoking feelings. Personification is shown while saying “muttering retreats” and “restless nights.” Nights aren’t necessarily restless, I think night after night someone can become restless and that’s how the personification is shown. When the listener asks a question but Prufrock does not answer, Prufrock is imposing the listener to come take a walk with him if they wish to find out what the overwhelming question is that he has implied knowing. In these lines women are coming and going. The women happened to be talking about Italian painter Michealangelo, and talking about Michealangelo gives them a higher-class presence, and also makes them seem
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question… Oh, do not ask, "What is it?" Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.
sophisticated. However, they are not very important to Prufrock as they come and go. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the windowpanes 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. Prufrock continues to talk about the sketchy scene introduced in the first stanza by hinting that the yellow fog makes the streets appear even more dungy, and repulsive. I find a little irony in the poem here because Eliot lived in, and loved England, and the capital of England is known for being pretty foggy. Prufrock also personalizes the fog when saying, “licked its tongue,” referencing it to a cat. It is also revealed in this stanza, that the setting takes place in late autumn on a “soft October night.” Here, Prufrock is avoiding the previously addressed question, and insists that he can leave all of his duties behind him, and take care of those duties some other time. Prufrock also spends some time convincing himself he’ll answer the overwhelming question later, and portrays characteristics like: lack of motivation, maybe shyness, but definitely lazy. He avoids all of his problems, and instead goes to “toast and tea.” When he discussed tea, it’s again implied that the poem taken place in England because tea is quite pronounced there. The reoccurrence of this stanza in the poem implies the idea of women continually entering, and leaving his life. It also implies that he may be at a social gathering or party. In this stanza, Prufrock second guesses himself, and questions whether or not he will continue with his plans. He is on a stairwell now, and insists he can still put off the answer to that overwhelming
And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions And for a hundred visions and revisions Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— [They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"] My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the
chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— [They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"] Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
answer. By repeatedly questioning himself, he’s proving that he has some insecurity, and wishes he could express his thoughts to a woman. Prufrock comes to describing his appearance a bit, saying he has a bald spot, and is roughly middle-aged. The only feature he finds attractive is his clothes, due to him keeping up with the modern trends. When Prufrock asks "Do I dare / Disturb the universe," it shows how he is scared to take a risk, and he doesn't seem like much of a risk taker so far. He ends the stanza by once again insisting that he has time and that even if he made a decision in a minute's time it could all be reversed and wouldn't have meant anything leaving him exactly where he was. With all of his doubts, in this stanza, Prufrock is trying to convince his audience that he does not actually need to complete anything as he has already experienced everything from "the evenings, mornings, and afternoons." There is a collective reoccurrence of tea and coffee in this poem as he "measures" out his life by the amounts of coffee he has drank. While Prufrock thinks he is possibly astounding his audience, he is actually demonstrating how there aren't too many interesting things going on in his life between coffee cup refills. It’s known that he is afraid to talk to others and that is expressed again when he questions whether or not he’s going to talk to those strangers in a different room, finding another way to put off answering that question again. Prufrock implies he has seen all kinds of women, trying to impress the audience again. In the second line, he informs his audience that he gets uncomfortable in situations where eyes “fix you in formulates phrase.” With that said, he
For I have known them all already, known them all; Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all— The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?
means that he is not a fan of judgmental stares, due to his insecurity. He then continues on about how he feels when he is being judged; he feels like he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall.” Prufrock refers to the same action scientists took long ago, they used to take insects and pin them on the walls in order to evaluate, and inspect them. Scientists can also be related back to the beginning stanza where he talks about his evenings “spread out.” Towards the end of the stanza, he continues comparing his life, using a metaphor to an unused end of a cigarette. He is still questioning the situation he is in, and how he should presume. Prufrock sounds a little hypocritical in this stanza as he examines others, yet he does not like to be the one that’s examined. He thinks he knows women, and believes that he can’t be surprised by any other their actions; “know them all.” Around line 64, he seems to go from bored to excitement. He examines his arm under a lamplight and refers to a time where he stood in the streets, with a very special woman. He contradicts himself again here, as he considers this one girl “special.” Prufrock is unable to figure out his motives to an extent, he goes back to thinking about his big plans, then how feminine characteristics get in the way of those plans… He is so far from his motives; he doesn’t know how to discuss, let alone start a conversation. Prufrock takes a turn and is now all of a sudden considering how to initiate conversation. However, the audience has no idea as to what he’s going to talk about. Prufrock then thinks about how he is considered a “lonely man” even though he might not actually be lonely. The imagery used in the lines, doesn’t
And I have known the arms already, known them all— Arms that are braceleted and white and bare [But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!] Is it perfume from a dress That makes me so digress? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl. And should I then presume? And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirtsleeves, leaning out of windows? …
make him sound too appealing, it makes him that “lonely man” and boring. I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. In these two lines, Prufrock uses quite a bit of imagery. He wishes he were born a crab, “scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” This is ironic because Prufrock has the same characteristics as a crab. They only worry about protecting themselves, and there even scared of others. In this stanza, Prufrock really considers how time flies and reflects on the past. He refers back to the fog in the street with its cat-like characteristics. Then the audience is brought back into the poem in the line: “here beside you and me.” He has finished his tea, and again questions whether or not he’ll have the strength to face the overwhelming question. Prufrock starts to feel sorry for him as he has “wept and fasted, wept and prayed; though I have seen my head… brought in upon a platter.” Saying that, Prufrock has compared himself to a Baptist by the name of John. John was murdered, and his head was brought out on a platter after he denounced his marriage. He continues to feel sorry for himself when comparing his life to a candle. He feels as if his best days are behind him, and he has not much to look forward to anymore. He ends the stanza with complete honestly, admitting to be afraid when he thought his life was going to end. In the beginning of the stanza, Prufrock brings up the concept of time again. He also uses personification: “to have bitten off the matter with a smile, to have squeezed the universe into a ball.” He wishes his moments of discussing that overwhelming question were to be as easy as biting into a cookie. Instead he reflects on how hard it sounds, just as
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! Smoothed by long fingers, Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers, Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me. 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 (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet–and here's no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all, After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me, Would it have been worth while, To have bitten off the matter with a smile, To have squeezed the universe into a ball To roll it toward some overwhelming question, To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all" If one, settling a pillow by her head, Should say, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all."
hard as it would be to actually squeeze the universe in a ball. The end of the stanza concludes the thought addressed in the beginning of the stanza: “would have it been worth it, after all.” Prufrock imagines someone responding in such a way, making it unnecessary to worry about the overwhelming question. He also considers the thought of being rejected, and with that believes that even if he is in a place to be rejected, it’s just best not to say anything at all. Prufrocks mind is still questioning whether it would have been worth it to ask his overwhelming question after all that he has been through with this woman. He’s main worry is asking the big question, only to be rejected. He really considers how tough it is, hence, what we have seen throughout the poem. He wishes a projector or something could do the job for him, making it easier to express what he has to say too. Then he goes back to the rejection aspect and morally decides it’s simply not worth asking his question. Here we see Prufrock relating himself to Hamlet. Hamlet and Prufrock are similar when it comes to procrastination, and indecisiveness. For the longest time Hamlet questioned killing his uncle, and Prufrock is no better when it comes to making up his mind about asking his question. However, Prufrock states that he isn’t like hamlet when he says, “no I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.” Prufrock then compares himself to Polonius and chooses to believe he shares more characteristics with Polonius. Polonius is rather condescending, and meticulous… He is also a fool and Prufrock feels he is a fool right now for dallying so much.
And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets, After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor— And this, and so much more?— It is impossible to say just what I mean! But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: Would it have been worth while If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl, And turning toward the window, should say: "That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all." No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
In this stanza, Prufrock confronts that time has passed and that he cant waste time anymore. He realizes that he is just aging more and more everyday, and has missed his chance to ask his overwhelming question. When Prufrock talks about his hair, mind it was quite popular to part your hair back then, he enforces staying up to date with the young and fashionable styles. What he looked like was always a major concern for him; “shall I part my hair behind,” or “do I dare eat a peach?” both reflect on him questioning how he actually looked. When he talks about the mermaids, he thinks about his women. Mermaids are known for seducing and luring men, just as his woman has done to him. By saying he does "not think they will sing to me," his insecurity becomes apparent again. Prufrock claims to have seen these mermaids in the midst of a storm when the "wind blows the water white and black." He also refers to woman when he is angry because the root behind his frustration is his inability to interact with women. At the end of the poem, Prufrock finally has the audience involved again. Prufrock implies he is not the only one who has ever been in a relationship with a woman, nor had insecurities and doubts. The way he talks at the end seems like he is asking for sympathy, but I think he is mainly asking his audience not to shame on him for never gaining the confidence to tell us his overwhelming question.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
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