As I read T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” I noticed how the speaker constantly asked himself questions throughout the poem. He asked himself “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (lines 45-46) and repeated the “do I dare” question. He also asked himself the questions “So how should I presume?” (54) and “Then how should I begin” (59) in different ways multiple times. Additionally, the speaker discusses how he has “known them all,” whether that be “the evenings, mornings, afternoons” (50), “voices dying with a dying fall” (52), “The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase” (56), or “Arms that are braceleted and white and bare” (63). The speaker saying how he knows so much makes it seem like he has a lot he wants to tell someone, perhaps someone he loves, the person addressed as the “you” in the first line of the poem. However, by constantly asking himself how he should begin to discuss these topics with someone, this shows how uncertain and possibly nervous he is about interacting with other people.
The repetition of these phrases could also show how repetitive the life of the speaker is, and clearly he is unhappy with his life. But at the same time, the speaker is still too afraid to speak up about what he thinks is important. At the beginning, he says “To lead you to an overwhelming question… / Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?'” (lines 10-11). He never tells what the question is, and instead talks about how “there will be time” throughout the poem. Eventually, the narrator says “I grow old…I grow old…” (120), signifying that he wasted his life.
Overall, the poem seems to portray a narrator who is unhappy with his life, but is too afraid to speak up about it. He allows his life to become mundane and repetitive, and realizes at the end that he is a “Fool” (119) who has grown old and wasted his chance to live how he wanted to. This poem is very long and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of analysis here, but the repetition of certain phrases definitely stood out to me and caused me to think of the possible meanings of the poem.