T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock describes the consciousness of a modern, nuerotic individual incapable of any real emotional interaction. Prufrock is Eliot's definition of the modern man; an over-educated, eloquent, sexually retarded, yet sensitive thinker. He is the "I" and the speaker of the poem. The poem circles around a formless and vague center, the "one" whom Prufrock addresses. Prufrock's potential lover, this "you" aids in illustrating the emotional distance between two people in the modern world.
The undesirable modern world is where "Prufrock" begins. Prufrock is in hell, in a lonely, alienating city. The images of the city are sterile and deathly; the night sky looks "Like a patient etherized upon a table", while down below empty "half-deserted streets" show "one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants". The fog/dog looks in on a room of stylish women "talking of Michelangelo". It lingers pathetically outside of the house, unable to enter.
The fog/dog represents Prufrock who avoids yet desires emotional interaction and physical contact in the same way. He agonizes over his social actions, worrying over how others will see him. He thinks about women's arms and perfume, but does not know how to act. He walks through the streets and watches lonely men leaning out their windows. Time passes at a social engagement but he cannot find the strength to act as he wishes, and Prufrock admits that he is afraid. His anxiety is rooted in the modern world. Not only is he afraid to confront the woman talking of Michelangelo, he seems intimidated by the social life he must engage in:
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...