Despite being called a “love song,” T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is characterized by seemingly chaotic form that contrasts with a typical romance. Intentional irregularities in form express Prufrock’s overwhelming desire for companionship and his troubled self-consciousness. Through close readings of Eliot’s odd use of pronouns, rhyme scheme, and ellipses, Prufrock’s unsatiated desire and resulting inner instability are manifested. The undefined “you” and “I” demonstrate the tension between Prufrock’s public and private masks, which he creates to entice women. This romantic endeavor results in unharmonized versions of himself that wrestle with playfulness and agitation at his isolation. The tension between his selves disrupts the passage of time in Prufrock’s monologue, shown through ellipses and intentional blank space. Though he creates the masks to satisfy his desire, Prufrock loses control over his self-consciousness and endures a limbo of longing. Eliot’s irregular form appears anarchic but mimics Prufrock’s erratic consciousness, compromised by desire. The “love song” may conclude with continued isolation and a broken self, but is poignant in its eternal desire.
"Drowning in Desire,"
The Criterion: Vol. 2019
, Article 3.
Available at: https://crossworks.holycross.edu/criterion/vol2019/iss1/3