Answer: Eliot’s Love Song of Prufrock is one of the finest examples of dramatic monologue in the history of English Poetry. To know it clearly, we should firstly understand the term ‘dramatic monologue’. A monologue -is a long speech by a single person and `dramatic’ means conversational language of a character in a play that utters a monologue expressing his or her private thoughts. A dramatic monologue is not an element in a play, but a type of lyric poem. It was perfected by Robert Browning. The dramatic monologue has the following features: (1) A single person who is patently not the poet, utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a crucial moment. (2) This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people and (3) of what the lyric speaker says is the speaker’s unintentional revelation of his or her temperament and character.
The poem is actually the lament of a being divided between passion and timidity. It is an interior monologue where Prufrock, theprotagonist speaks to himself in a kind of daydream. It opens with a command to the self (you) to accompany the physical him (I) to a distant room. Literally, the ‘I’ and ‘you’ of the poem are not two persons but rather two aspects of the same person — the public personality and the ego. In addition to contributing to the effect of monologue, the use of the pronouns creates the impression of a man talking to himself in the mirror. When we hear the very first line, “Let us go then,, you and I”; it seems to us that we are to watch a dialogue-based poem.
It has been said in the introductory paragraph that dramatic monologue is a literary device in which a speaker speaks to himself in a critical moment revealing his secret thoughts unintentionally. And in this Love-Poem, Prufrock the speaker speaks to himself in a critical moment that is, to propose love to a lady revealing his own self. The ‘you’ of the poem is instructed not to ask “What is it?” bet to “go and make our visit”. The visit suggests the decorous quality of Prufrock’s personality.
The most significant characteristic of a dramatic monologue is the unconscious revelation of the speaker. The speaker, Prufrock, wishes to be in love with a lady and at the same time his present physical condition does not support him .to declare love to the lady. In this situation, he tells himself many things. And unintentionally, he reveals his temperament and character. He says:
The Yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window panes.
Here, we see that Prufrock imagines himself as a cat. The image of the fog as cat reminds us another reflection of his mental state: desire, which ends in inertia. If the cat image suggests sex, it also suggests the greater desire of inactivity.
The poem is a speech of Prufrock who can’tdecide what to do especially on his way towards love. Though it is not clear with whom the speaker is in love, but it is not so important to mention any particular lady. It might be anyone of his us known women. It appearsbeforeus that the speaker, Prufrock is a middle-aged bachelor. He wants to make love with a lady: though he is, simultaneouslyconscious of his being a little bit impotent. This is the matter that makes him indecisive. He says to himself:
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet
There will be time to murder and create.
The phrase “to murder and create” expresses the mental impression of the speaker. He thinks that time will come to him to murder his indecision and to create the new one i.e. the love proposal to his liked lady. Prufrock’s destination is also vague. We just find him making up his mind to go to a room where “Women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo.”
In the next stanza, the speaker again steps backward thinking of his physical disabilities to be loved. He realizes that he is now a man `with a bald spot in the middle of my hair’ . He describes his morning coat, his collar, his neck tie `rich and modest”, but simultaneously recognizes that the women may comment on the thinness of his arms and legs. He, even, imagines that his step towards proposing a lady will be a disturbing element to the society. Here the lines are;
Do I Dare
Disturb the universe?
The Speaker is in such a state that he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall”. He also measures out his life “with coffee spoons”. He says that he is “no prophet- and here’s no great matter”. Prufrock does not see any great or sacred work for him to do in this world. He is in a fix what to do. He says in the poem;
It is impossible to say just what I mean.
The poem, then, turns again to a note of decision. He is not prince Hamlet, though indecision might suggest it; rather cautious attendant. But, later, the long, heavy sounds of weariness are heard in the line “I grow old … I grow old….”
At the last section of the poem, the speaker mentions. of “sea’. ‘mermaids singing’, ‘waves’ etc. This watery, floating imageryinvolves the relaxation of all effort and offers a submerged fulfillment. It is ended when “human voices wake us, and we drown”- with the intrusion of reality which drowns the inner life of Prufrock. If this is a sublimation of the amorous Prufrock, it is a release of the timid Prufrock. But reality returns and the divided self is submerged again.
From the above discussion, we may conclude that “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a significant dramatic monologue. According to the style of a dramatic monologue Prufrock, the speaker of the poem, speaks to himself and interacts in a critical situation that reveals his character as well. Thus we may call the poem a successful dramatic monologue.