The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Europe I

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What Will Your Life Be Like?

A man touches his face while he is in deep thought.

At some point, many adults wonder what the rest of their life will be like. Have they accomplished all they can? Will they live long enough to do everything they want to do? In this poem, T. S. Eliot uses sensory detail and end rhyme (pairs or groups of lines that end with words that rhyme) to express fictional character J. Alfred Prufrock’s view of his life.

In his 1948 acceptance of the Nobel Prize, Eliot said, “When a poet speaks to his own people, the voices of all the poets of other languages who have influenced him are speaking also. And at the same time he himself is speaking to younger poets of other languages, and these poets will convey something of his vision of life and something of the spirit of his people, to their own. Partly through his influence on other poets, partly through translation, which must be also a kind of recreation of his poems by other poets, partly through readers of his language who are not themselves poets, the poet can contribute toward understanding between peoples….”

For this first of his “Ten Songs,” W. H. Auden uses a variation of the blues stanza to express the plight of German Jews who were forced out of their homes by Hitler.

The typical blues stanza has three lines. The first two lines usually rhyme, and the second line is a variation of the first. The final line is a response to the first two, as in this example:

When a woman gets the blues, she wrings her
hands and cries,
I say, when a woman is blue, she pulls her hair
and cries,
But when a man gets the blues, he grabs a train
and rides.

As you read this poem, you will see that this type of rhyme is quite effective for conveying Auden’s message.

Objectives

  • Identify and interpret allusions in a poetic work
  • Analyze sensory details and images in poetry
  • Review an essay for unity and coherence
  • Identify and use verbals and verbal phrases correctly

Key Words

  • allusion
  • end rhyme
  • sensory details
  • verbal phrases
  • verbals