T S Eliot wrote this poem while he was in his early twenties: he later recalled beginning the poem while a student of philosophy at Harvard University in 1909–10, and he finished it while travelling for a year in Europe, in Munich and Paris.But you could not say that it was a young man’s poem exactly: later in life Eliot, when asked, said: ‘It was partly a dramatic creation of a man of about 40 I should say, and partly an expression of feeling of my own through this dim imaginary figure.’ The poem is extraordinarily original, but it does have some anticipations.Usage terms Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of The Beneficiaries of the Estate of May Sinclair Copyright © May Sinclair 1917.
’ It would be wrong to say that these questions are ‘rhetorical’; they are genuinely expressions of perplexity: ‘So how should I presume?
’ The form of the verse co-operates in this universe of non-ending by avoiding the different sorts of progressiveness that would come from using stanzas, or blank verse, or heroic couplets.
The ‘you’ addressed in the first line seems to evaporate quite soon, as though he (is it a ‘he’?
) never were in real life; and the ‘you’ of ‘you and me’ that comes later – ‘here beside you and me’ and ‘some talk of you and me’ – does not feel like the same addressee, or indeed an addressee who is really present at all.
Alfred Prufrock' is trapped in his own mind, so full of hesitation and doubt that he is unable to act.
Seamus Perry explores the poem's portrayal of paralysing anxiety.)’ The closest we come to disclosure is the studiedly neutral double reference to ‘one’: ‘one, settling a pillow by her head’, and again, ‘one settling a pillow, or throwing off a shawl’.In his portrait of this ‘one’, she appears unimpressed by his efforts to ‘say just what I mean’; but he is using her imagined indifference as a reason for abandoning an effort in the first place.The opening urgency of Prufrock’s ‘Let us go’ dwindles in the short second verse to the desultory-sounding to-and-fro of the unidentified women, who ‘come and go / Talking of Michelangelo’.That couplet also comes and goes, returning about 20 lines later, but with no improved sense as to who the women are, let alone what they mean to the speaker.’ Eliot is drawn, too, to leaving Prufrock caught up in rhymes that are no rhymes but merely repetitions, enacting the way he is victimised by the insistently reiterative movements of his own anxious mind – as, say, when he can’t dislodge the accusation of being too ‘thin’: (They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’) My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— (They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!Eliot’s poem has no regular rhyme or rhythmical patterning: it is in free verse, involves abandoning the ‘comforting echo of rhyme’, he said; but his poem does not do without rhyme at all, just without regular rhyme, as in a rhyme scheme.Eliot wrote beautifully about the possibilities of this, as though in oblique commentary on his own poem: ‘There are often passages in an unrhymed poem where rhyme is wanted for some special effect, for a sudden tightening-up, for a cumulative insistence, or for an abrupt change of mood.’ You could find examples of all of those in the poem, and other effects besides, created by rhyme’s interruption into an unrhymed or unpredictably rhymed space: ‘Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?He once referred to that thing, in private, as a ‘complex’.Presumably with some degree of levity, given the nature of the authority upon which he was commenting, Eliot wrote ‘The Prufrock Complex’ next to these words from the report of a palm-reader: ‘when faced with a personal problem, any prolonged contemplation of probabilities merely produces hesitancy and indecision’.