The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock : literary devices

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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.

literary devices

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a landmark modernist dramatic monologue composed by the American-born British poet Thomas Stearns Eliot. The poet has employed numerous literary devices in this text to deepen its meaning and to engage the readers. Let’s explore these.


An epigraph is used to begin a literary work. It aims to introduce the readers to the work’s meaning and themes. Eliot borrows some lines from the Italian poet Dante’s “Inferno.”


An allusion is a reference to a historical event, a person, religion, mythology or movement. In the first line of this poem, Eliot mentions Lazarus, a biblical character raised from the dead by Jesus in the Bible. This reference foreshadows the speaker’s mental and emotional isolation. 


In personification, animals, plants or even inanimate objects are given human quality. The poem personifies inanimate objects in the lines: “the yellow smoke” that “rubs its muzzle on the windowpanes.” The poet also personified trees in the phrase: “the tree waved as I walked by.”


A metaphor is a comparison between two unrelated things. This poem contains several metaphors, such as: “Hollywood,” which refers to entertainment. Besides, “the man” and “Washington” indicate the contemporary government. 


Eliot implies similes comparing evening to “a patient etherized upon a table” to convey the lifelessness and lethargy of Prufrock’s world.


Irony shows the contrast between expectation and reality. J. Alfred Prufrock, the speaker of the poem, abstains from proposing to his beloved, thinking he has enough time to do that. But in reality, he is out of time.