The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock

Essay by sgdragonslayerUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The epigraph at the beginning of "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" refers to lines taken from Dante's "Inferno". The words are spoken by the character of Count Guido da Montefellro, a soul being punished in the Eighth chasm of Hell for the attempt to buy absolution in advance of committing a crime. Guido explains that he is speaking freely to Dante only because he believes Dante to be one of the dead who could never return to earth to repeat what is said to him. Roughly translated, the epigraph means that if the speaker knew his words had a chance of leaving Hell, then he would not have told his story.

Like Dante's character, Prufrock is in a self-pitying "Hell" of his own insecure feelings. Prufrock feels unworthy of the love he so desperately wants. He pours out all of his self-doubting reflections in this poem because he assumes the reader will never be able to repeat them, yet he wants the comfort of having told someone.

He needs to confess his fears and doubts to someone who he believes will never tell.

He may also feel that we, the readers, are also trapped in the same Hell as he is and can therefore sympathize with his lack of self-confidence. Prufrock's helpless and inferior view of his inability to change his situation conveys the torture he feels through his inaction. He may well feel that his powerlessness to act can be empathized with. Prufrock understands his helplessness and dissatisfaction with his life but does not seem to be able to deal with it. His examination of his own self-image causes his distortion of reality, making him afraid of confrontation as he retreats into unsatisfying, but dependable daydreams. Like Dante's character, Prufrock can not seem to escape...