Poetry can be powerful, and Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock is no exception. A lengthy poem rich with unique and detailed imagery, Eliot adds to the already immense collection of incredible poetry with his name written at the top.
The piece opens with a quote from Inferno. The quote sets the tone for the rest of the poem, raising questions within the reader’s mind on humanity, the universe, and most importantly, how one is perceived by others. The piece from Inferno suggests the Hell’s resident’s concern over whether or not what he/she tells the narrator will make its way to the planet’s surface, influencing how that individual is perceived from that point forward. The poem plays with this perception throughout. The narrator almost discusses the topic as if on a journey or as part of a story. He describes the streets in beautiful ways, and teases the concept of a ‘question’ that resurfaces itself throughout the text. This question is rather unclear, and a variety of ideas can appear in the reader’s mind. I will get to my interpretation in a bit.
As the poem goes on, the narrator introduces the person to whom the poem is directed. While the reader may not know exactly who the narrator is talking to, it is made clear that the poem is written for a woman and the poem is built around romance. The narrator is debating his own actions, considering the depths of the universe and some underlying question. The narrator describes women discussing Michelangelo and he discusses his baldness, age, and lack of wealth/title. This is where my perception of what the underlying question truly is. I think the narrator debates the question of ”how do you see me?” or something along those lines. The narrator discusses how women will perceive him and whether or not it is worth it to speak to a woman. This is where the depths of the universe come into play. The narrator is reasoning with his fear of rejection and negative perception. He is noting that, at the edge of the universe, and after life, all that will be left of him is how he is seen and what he has done. On the one hand, he is old and bald, and he seems to consider this a negative perception. However, if he never dates these women and takes some chances, he will not experience these conversations that he mentions and these experiences with these women. It is an interior battle over his perceptions and his actions. This is why the piece from Inferno comes into play: perception and action. How one is seen is hugely important to the narrator, however experiences and happiness are as well.