The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Logan Schmidt

The Grand Optimist Final by Logan Schmidt

Prufrock's Problem

Throughout the poem, Alfred's views on himself and on the people around him are exposed and depicted with different literary techniques; Imagery being an important part of the poem. Through imagery we are able to visualize and understand Prufrock's main problem; his inability to take action in order to have normal social relationships. He constantly procrastinates claiming that "there will be time" for him to eventually act. In the end, we learn that Prufrock has come to be an old man who has not taken any action at all, highlighting his tragic flaw.

Types of Imagery

Animal Imagery

The poem utilizes animal imagery multiple times where Alfred symbolizes his personality and points of view. The reader can connect each one of these animals to his defining features: indecisiveness, and lack of normal social relationships.

Body Parts Imagery

Prufrock also uses imagery of body parts to express his feelings on how he thinks other people view him, and consequently, judge him. In contrast however, Prufrock also uses body parts to judge others. His descriptions are remminiscent of a literary device called 'synecdoche' in which a part of something is used to represent a whole. He cannot talk of a person as whole, highlighting his futile inner struggle with himself and the people around him.


It is undeniably clear that Prufrock is too timid to take action because of what he thinks others will say about him. He constantly says that he will act, and that he has plenty of time to do so. However, the bottom line is that he never does anything significant at all. What Prufrock desperately needs is self-confidence and ambition. With self-confidence, Prufrock would be able to rally up the courage inside of him to act and with ambition, he would then be able to set his mind on the goals that he wishes to achieve. Prufrock's solutions are somewhere inside of him. He has clearly shown that the source of his problems are not the people around him, but rather himself.

A Problem Without Solution?

Alfred Prufrock's issues are hard to solve because they are closely related with his own personality and way that he sees the world. His life must have been a series of tragic events leading up to the shyness and alienation he exposes. However, isolating himself is never going to solve his issues but rather it is going to make them worse -it could even lead him to madness. Hamlet is a great example of the person he can become by internalizing his thoughts and problems. Alfred's best option is to look for professional advice and psychological counselling. He must follow a slow adaptation process to the society and community around him. He can only accomplish that by being more outgoing and trying different social activities that will help him socialize and gain confidence. He needs to be optimist towards his life and his relations. He must also do this as soon as possible before his life turns as he prophesied; growing old lonely by the ocean shore.