The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
We tend to associate characters with stories, not poetry – but poems have characters too. In fact, all poems have a “speaker” which is oftentimes distinct from the poet. For instance, I could write a poem from the viewpoint of a tomato, in which case I am the poet and the tomato is the poem’s speaker. The tomato, then, is also the poem’s main character!
One of poetry’s most famous characters is J. Alfred Prufrock, the protagonist of T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
.” Eliot’s poem consists entirely of Prufrock’s internal dialogue as he grapples with self-doubt, regret, and loneliness.
It’s quite the beautiful poem, and I hope you’ll give it a full read. But in the meantime, here are a few particularly striking lines from Prufrock’s speech. Pay attention to the imagery and the music of the words; try out the words aloud. No prompt today, just a question: Do you dare to eat a peach?
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky...
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, ...
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” ...
Do I dare
Disturb the universe? ...
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. ...
I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.”