In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Prufrock is a man who is emotionally in conflict with himself. Although Prufrock is growing old, he feels the need to attract women but scares of being rejected or having an unstable relationship as in the past. Prufrock shows that he really concerns about his physical deterioration although he is not afraid of death. He also thinks that people in his neighborhood are judging and gossiping about him, which makes him distant from the outside. Therefore, Prufrock’s loveless life, isolation, and low self-esteem can be connected to the following three symbols: mermaids, bald spot, and eternal Footman.
Prufrock refers to women many times throughout the poem, which he describes as mermaids. He describes these women as mermaids based on his past experiences with them because mermaids are often portrayed as good-looking and attractive creatures with harmonious voices but also extremely dangerous. Although the beauty of these women attracts him, he does not want to be in a relationship since he fears of being left alone by them like in the past because he is not famous or prestigious as Michelangelo (759). Therefore, he decides to stay alone expressing his feelings to himself in order to avoid being hurt by these women.
Besides being scared to have women in his life, Prufrock is very anxious about his physical deterioration, which is represented by his bald spot. Men often start having bald spot in their hair when they start becoming old, but this change does not align with Prufrock’s perception as it causes him to stay inside so people in his neighborhood do not talk or gossip about him; however, it can be the opposite because people sometimes have the impression that others are judging them for their look while in reality everyone is taking care of heir own business (760). The readers can also conclude that Prufrock is a low self-esteem character and is really insecure because a self-confident man does not care about what others say or think about him.
Although he seems care about his look, Prufrock does not value his life because he thinks the believes that the eternal Footman, or death, is snickering just snickering at him even though he sees it holding his coat (761). Not being prestigious as Michelangelo or important as a prophet or prince to others makes him think that he does not have to stay afraid of death. Another thing that makes him think vaguely about the remaining time he has to live is the fact that he has a lot of experiences in life, which he shows when saying that “he knows the evenings, mornings, afternoons” and “ he measures out his life with coffee spoons” (761).
As a result, the symbolism of mermaids, bald spot, and eternal Footman by Prufrock are connected to his loveless life, alienated situation, and low self-esteem as he believes that women may hurt as in the past for not being prestigious. He also shows he really concerns about his physical by isolating himself so that his neighbors do not judge, although he does not really care about being alive or not.
- Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Cengage Learning, 2016.