The Poems

  • Andrew Swarbrick
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series


‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ is neither a song nor a conventional expression of love. The identity of ‘J. Alfred Prufrock’ — a comically ridiculous name for a love-poet — remains blurred, while the other figures referred to in the poem are fleeting and insubstantial. The poem thrives on indefiniteness. Its title promises a love song but what it actually delivers is a fragmentary collage of false starts, hesitations and digressions. For J. Alfred Prufrock, a love song proves impossible. His poem is thus an ironic attack against the easy sentimentalities and cliches popularly associated with the love song. In Prufrock’s (and Eliot’s) hands, it falls apart into fragments, collapses into inarticulateness. It is worth remembering from the outset that the strategy of the poem is comic, although a dreadful seriousness underlies the comedy.


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© Andrew Swarbrick 1988

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  • Andrew Swarbrick

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