T. S. Eliot wrote his first commercially published poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” also known as “Prufrock.” Eliot began composing the poem, which was initially published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, at the request of Ezra Pound in the 19th century (Lowe 3). The work was controversial at its release, but it is today seen as an important cultural transition to Modernism in literature (Lowe 7). Eliot used the uniquely modernist form of imagism to create his poem by bombarding readers with an incoherent mix of abstract images. Allusions, in this case, represent the integral semantic meaning of the poem, inclined by both the style appropriated by the author and the personality of the main character.
His precise descriptions encourage readers to pay great attention to each word and image. The reader must analyze Eliot’s imagery, evaluate its symbolic significance, and look for thematic patterns to comprehend this poem’s meaning. The author’s intention to portray visual themes is exemplified by the phrase “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes” (Schweizer, line 21). He suggests an addition to his story’s atmosphere, such as “The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes” (Schweizer, line 22). Such manner of the author, according to public research, is the result of his mother’s influence. According to Oser, Charlotte Eliot is “an intriguing figure in numerous studies, having been well educated by nineteenth-century standards, devoutly Unitarian, freely Republican, as well as an artist who frequently veered into poetry” (191). It is, therefore, feasible to further examine the speaker and his inner mental state by comprehending the mentioned allusions that the author regularly utilizes.
Prufrock, the poem’s speaker, is terrified of being eventually rejected. He does not seek females since he is afraid of making a mistake. The words “In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo” exemplified this concern (Schweizer, line 19). Such inner struggles of the protagonist represent the key aspect of allusions in the poem. Specifically, Eliot supplied a “more thorough chronology of his poem in a letter to the journal the next year after the release,” putting its roots in the 1910–11 year in Paris (Lowe 5). In doing so, he dismissed the possibility of being directly inspired by Garnett’s interpretation, but he “did affirm that Prufrock’s monologue did include a strong influence of Dostoevsky” (Lowe 5). Furthermore, the speaker attempts to urge his lover to take advantage of the situation. “Had we but world enough, and time,” the poem’s first line suggests there is not enough time (Schweizer, line 1). To excuse his inactions and general skepticism, he repeats the phrase, “There will be time” (Schweizer, line 29). As a result, the character heavily relies on allusions in order to mentally protect himself from the act of self-blaming.
In conclusion, allusions were crucial in demonstrating insecurities and how the protagonist concealed his true thoughts, which were highly affected by the imagism used by Eliot, the fundamental basis of the poem. The author’s interest in the modernism movement was mentioned, and how he incorporated it into his own poetry. Moreover, the use of peer-reviewed sources allowed for a detailed analysis of the story’s protagonist. Such essays and studies on related topics allow us to systematize and expand our understanding of the allusions and ideologies in literary art.
Lowe, Peter. “Prufrock in St. Petersburg: The Presence of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’” Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 28, no. 3, 2005, pp. 1–24. Crossref.
Oser, Lee. “Charlotte Eliot and ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’” Modern Philology, vol. 94, no. 2, 1996, pp. 190–200. Crossref.
Schweizer, Harold, editor. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. 1st ed., Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Routledge, 2001.