The love story

"It is impossible to say just what I mean!"

J. Alfred Prufrock's inability to find an emotional connection

Loneliness is a feeling where one feels empty inside. Many people who are lonely want more than just the company of others - they want an emotional connection too. In "The Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Elliot, the narrator fantasizes about connecting with a woman. Throughout the poem, the narrator consciously talks of situations in which he tries to figure out how to muster up the courage to talk to a woman and emotionally connect with her. The narrator never attempts to get anywhere close to actually talking to someone and instead psyches himself out every time he somewhat gets the courage to be social. With his distinct separation between logic and emotion, abundance of low self-esteem and isolation from social activity, the narrator shows that if one cannot attempt to make an emotional connection with someone, then that person will always be lonely.

The narrator clearly has an obvious distinction between logic and emotion. Logically, he has the perfect set up of how to talk to a woman. However, his overuse of logical strategizing brings the issue of thinking too much about the scenario at hand. Being the intelligent individual that he is, the narrator is well aware of this by saying "in a minute there is time / for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse" (p. 1052). This quote holds true throughout the whole poem. Of all the ways the narrator thinks the scenario can go, none of the outcomes turn out particularly well. An example of a scenario is when the narrator ponders about when he does start a relationship with a woman. But even after all the fun they've had, he is worried that he will say something overwhelming and she will reject him. "It is impossible to say just what [he] means" (p. 1053) because he cannot successfully combine any sort of emotion with his overly dominant logical thinking.

Also contributing to the loneliness of the narrator are his characteristics of low self-esteem within the poem. An instance of this is in the sixth stanza, where finally thinks about going up to a woman. The narrator ponders how the women will react to his looks and his attire: "[the] bald spot in the middle of [his] hair", "[a] morning coat, collar mounting firmly to the chin", and "[his] necktie" (p. 1052). There is another occurrence where he wonders that even if he had met a woman and spent time (even be intimate) with her, "would it have been worth it, after all" (p. 1053). This quote shows that he is scared of not finding an emotional connection as well as a woman to be with. The narrator also compares himself to Hamlet, with the fact that while both are intelligent and indecisive, the narrator does not have Hamlet's charm. Even while willing to change his appearance due to age, the narrator doesn't even believe that the 'mermaids' would sing to him in his fantasy. This evidence of low self esteem and gloomy attitude about a woman's reactions to these overly thought out scenarios are lowering his confidence and thus not allowing him to even mutter hello to any woman - fantasy or otherwise. Since he doesn't have the self-esteem to try to find a woman with that emotional connection, he will always be lonely.

In addition to the low self esteem paired with depressing outcomes made from thinking to much, the narrator tends to isolate himself from society. In the third stanza, the narrator equates himself to that of a curious animal outside of the room. As he lingers around "in the room [where] women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo" (p. 1051), it appears that he has psyched himself up enough to make "a sudden leap" (p. 1051) but eventually the narrator curls up in the house - alone. He had the decision to finally make a move but combined with his constant 'what ifs' and worrying, he ridicules himself and leaves with nothing achieved. The narrator constantly says "there will be time" (p. 1051) yet as the narrator presents himself in a situation and wonders "And how should I presume? And how should I begin" (p. 1052), that 'time' that he is optimistic for becomes more and more hopeless. This isolation will only lead him to scrutinize himself over a missed opportunity and thus keep him lonely.

The narrator is very much like a shy, socially awkward boy at a school dance. While he logically knows how to approach a woman, he does not know how to be decisive enough to confidently hope that some kind of outcome will come out of it other than self-embarrassment. Combined with the fact that the inner workings of his conscious and negative feelings about himself makes him isolate himself from being social with women, the narrator shows that if one cannot even attempt to make an emotional connection with someone, then that person will always be lonely.

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