Alienation and Loneliness in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock





Alienation and Loneliness in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Commonly known as “Prufrock”, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a poem written by T. S. Eliot. The composition, based on Eliot’s predisposition towards the Bible and other romantic literary works, constitutes considerable instances of literary distress. Indeed, the ode is a theatrical monologue of a suburban man with sentiments of isolation. Throughout the poem, the main persona, Prufrock, reveals the emotional impotence and exasperation of the contemporary man. In addition to this, the character expresses a multitude of disenchanted desires and disillusionment. Based on the reflections of Prufrock, The Love Song is a lamentation of the protagonist’s logical and bodily inertia, lost prospects experienced throughout his life and the failure of carnal love. Nonetheless, in relation to the analysis of the poem, it is possible to perceive elements of isolation and alienation in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Criticism of the Poem

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock narrates the experiences of a lonesome middle-aged male as he ages. The anxieties present in the society restrict him from looking for his preferred love interest. Aside from the failure of his romantic pursuit, the persona’s insufficient confidence and fear of denial further rebuff his exploits regardless of his extent of interest. Throughout the sonnet, Prufrock contemplates on approaching the woman he loves but at the end, he does not live to his potential hence depicting his inclination towards fear and indecisiveness.  Even though assumed literally, the respective poem actually seems similar to an expression of the man’s thoughts in writing. From this perspective, the audience is capable of relating to Prufrock as the anti-hero based on the situations that he experiences as his inner person challenges him and limits his social pursuits.

Analysis of the Poem

Alienation in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Nonetheless, the subject of alienation and loneliness is significantly evident in this particular poem. Prufrock uses the major portion of the poem to reflect on a specific overpowering question, which he wants to ask a love interest at a communal event. Being the pitiable person that he is, the reader notices that the character lacks the bravery to approach the women within the event. In addition to this, he asserts that the people are watching him intently like “an insect sprawling on a pin”. Further evidence of alienation is evident where Prufrock assumes that the women are attentive towards him regardless of the dismal gazes they impose on him. 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 (Moody 66).

Another illustration of the theme of alienation is according to the character’s obsession with the question he desperately wants to ask. While at the party, Prufrock attempts to understand his alienation when he postpones his desire to ask the query. The line, “There will be time, there will be time” easily suggests the character’s understanding of isolation (Eliot Line 23). 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. However, as he states, “And for a hundred visions and revisions”, it is clear that Prufrock’s understanding of time seems nearly futile (Eliot Line 27). Additionally, his utilization of enjambed lines depicts his indecision to ask the question and further shows his inability to socialize with the crowd. Nonetheless, as he ponders on approaching the women by stating “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”, one can perceive his feelings of alienation from the community.

The theme of isolation further represents itself when Prufrock asks, “Do I dare?” (Eliot Line 38). This line alone represents the fear that the character has towards the society due to his status as a social outcast. Consequently, Prufrock seems to be afraid of the people and resorts to recollect similar voices he has perceived as well as the same people he has seen. His recount of the members of his own society forces him to attach a negative status to the community (Moody 70). Because of this, Prufrock further alienates himself from the group since he does not want to be part of it and become appalling as they are. Furthermore, he estranges himself from the crowd by finding life to be uninteresting and unimportant when he asserts that he has “measured out his life with coffee spoons” (Eliot Line 51).

Loneliness in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

The subject of loneliness is sufficiently evident in this particular poem. In the last stanza, the reader is capable of seeing the character’s loneliness. In this section, Prufrock creates a fantasy in which he describes his life with mermaids. Indeed, from this illustration, it is clear that the lead character exhibits loneliness based on his wishes to live freely with mermaids. Moreover, his predisposition towards such mythological creatures considerably reveals his discontent with the human society (Oser 89). Hence, his loneliness is an actual result of the alienation he faces from the society and his attempt to be by himself further leading to his estrangement. Accordingly, the notion of segregation that he experiences fuels his solitude as he prefers to stay in his room rather than intermingle with people that he does not like. This streak of loneliness is followed by a despondent tone when he asserts the unfortunate implications that reality imposes on such wonderful pleasantries. As such, his loneliness is also a result of the tone of pessimism that he exhibits throughout the poem.

The inclusion of “You and I” in the poem’s opening statement reveals instances of loneliness. While viewed from a more critical perspective, it is possible to assert that Prufrock seems to address his own character as he expresses his disappointments. Additionally, as he states, “Let us go you and I”, the reader can also assume that most of the events evident within the poem are taking place inside his head (Eliot Line 1). Hence, Prufrock may have not left his room at all. Due to this, it is possible that the poem comprises a theatrical monologue in which the characters, “You” and “I” are one person (Oser 92). This reveals the loneliness of the character since he speaks to himself throughout the poem. Moreover, in order to engage in a rational discussion with himself instead of another external person, Prufrock establishes different personas within his mind. At this point, the character “You” represents the insistent and passionate side while “I” constitutes the timid and passive side who does not wish to refuse.


To this end, T. S. Eliot’s poem provides an effective platform for assessing the recurrence of loneliness and alienation. However, in comparison to other works, literary works composed by Eliot revolve around this theme due to the influence of the context in which he occupied at the time. Hence, it is unsurprising to see that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock borders on similar notions. However, the utilization of such themes is significant in the poem. The ability to perceive it from different perspectives is an outcome of the respective subjects. Undeniably, this particular poem integrates loneliness and alienation to its own advantage as it attempts to establish a constructive dramatic monologue.


Works Cited:

Eliot, T. S. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. New York: Ameron, 2007. Print.

Moody, A. D. “T. S. Eliot: The American Strain.” T. S. Eliot. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2011. 65-76. Print.

Oser, Lee. “Prufrock’s Guilty Pleasures.” T. S. Eliot. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2011. 80-111. Print.

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