Comment on the inner conflict of Prufrock

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a notable literary work by T. S. Eliot. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.


Comment on the inner conflict of Prufrock. Or,

what is the problem with Prufrock?

J. Alfred Prufrock is the prime character in T.S Eliot’s (1888-1965) celebrated modern poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915). He leads a problematic life, struggling with insecurities, self-doubt, and a fear of social judgment. In this discussion, we will explore his problem and the conflicts inside him. 

Fear of Rejection: Prufrock hesitates to propose to his beloved due to his fear of rejection. He thinks that his ladylove will not respond to him positively. These hesitations create difficulty in expressing himself. He states:

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

Self-Doubt: Prufrock lacks self-confidence and always doubts his worthiness. He ponders over the issue of whether he should pursue his desires despite his inadequacies or not. This self-doubt makes him a failed man. 

Time and Aging: Prufrock is probably middle-aged or older. It makes him worried. He laments missed opportunities and the passing of his time. Thus, this poem is a poem of middle-aged men’s crisis. Prufrock says,

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Indecisiveness: Though Prufrock pretends to be a brave person, he is coward inwardly. He can never decide promptly, so he compares himself to Polonius, a character in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. This is evident in the following lines:

And time yet for a hundred indecision,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Finally, Prufrock’s inner conflict is apparent regarding his fear of rejection, self-doubt, concerns about aging, and his inability to make decisions. These emotional struggles create problems within him. It stops him from fully immersing himself in life and others around him.