Eliot invested his early on adulthood studying philosophy and literature at Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Oxford; he was an intellectual and also an unapologetic elitist. One result of his high-mindedness is the his poetry consists of abundant allusions, plenty of of them obscure. However, “Prufrock” is challenging—and rewarding—enough without examining every obscure reference. 


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With the said, there are certain cultural and literature allusions that are main to expertise the poem. 

Allusions come Art and also Literature: Prufrock renders allusions to art and also literature that show him to it is in a cultured man. Though the poem has actually some “buried” allusions—passing recommendations that are most likely to be lost on many readers—the more explicit ones are less an overwhelming than they may seem in ~ first. You don’t require an in-depth understanding of the references to understand the broader themes of the poem. Each allusion is at some point a tool Prufrock uses in his battle to specify his own identity and his ar in the world. 

Michelangelo: The first such recommendation comes in the two-line 2nd stanza: “In the room the females come and go / talking of Michelangelo.” The mention of a Renaissance artist in this couplet isn’t laden through deep meaning, however it serves as an clues of the type of women that interest, and intimidate, Prufrock. The sets increase Michelangelo as a foil for Prufrock: the truth that the women space contemplating one of the world boldest and also most achieved artists may make the timid, indecisive narrator feeling even more self-conscious about his own shortcomings. “To His Coy Mistress”: The ongoing repetition that the expression “there will be time” is a solution to Andrew Marvell’s 1681 city “To His Coy Mistress.” Marvell’s speak is assertive, leveraging the swiftness the time’s i to to convince his lover the they have to “sport when may.” “Let us roll every our strength and also all / Our sweet up right into one ball,” that commands, “And tear our pleasures through rough strife / through the iron gateways of life.” by contrast, Prufrock is timid and also uncertain, and also sees time as an interminable stretch in i m sorry he can examine and reexamine his chosen activity and inaction. Though he understands that Marvell’s forward technique is a course open to him, Prufrock rather wonders, “Would it have actually been worth while. . . . To have squeezed the universe into a sphere / To roll it toward some overwhelming question” offered the potential because that rejection by the target that his affection. John the Baptist: In the twelfth stanza, Prufrock says, “I have actually seen mine head (grown slightly bald) brought in ~ above a platter.” This is an allusion to john the Baptist, the biblical prophet that was beheaded on the command that Salome, the stepdaughter the King Herod. First and foremost, the allusion serves together a metaphor for Prufrock’s too much self-consciousness, due to the fact that John’s severed head is an object to it is in judged and also a trophy because that his executioners. A key element of the allusion is that john was eliminated on the order of women—Salome, complying with the directive of her mother, demanded the execution. Women are the reason of John’s downfall, and Prufrock may believe he share the very same fate. That is likewise worth noting how Eliot transforms the allusion right into something both grandiose and self-deprecating. Prufrock obviously has actually not been beheaded, and drawing the compare to john is an practically laughable exaggeration. Ever self-conscious, Prufrock establish this fact. By inserting the parenthetical comment about his outright spot, Prufrock laughs at the melodramatic self-image he has created. In the adhering to line the retreats further into self-effacement, saying, “I to be no prophet—and this is no great matter.” In keeping with his contorted thinking, what he calls “no great matter” is actually a central theme the the poem: that he’s paralyzed by fear of rejection. Lazarus: The following stanza it is intended another significant biblical allusion. Prufrock imagines himself together “Lazarus, come indigenous the dead, / come earlier to tell friend all, i shall tell girlfriend all.” He climate imagines this comment being dismissed through the mrs he addresses, who replies, “That is no what I supposed at all.” In the Bible, Lazarus dies of an illness before Jesus Christ brings him earlier to life. This makes Lazarus doubly privileged—he has returned from the dead, and through this wonder he has actually received affirmation that Jesus’s divinity. Prufrock feels the he own a similar wisdom, yet his predicament is the he cannot find the words come express it. As he declares in the next stanza, “It is difficult to say simply what i mean!” Hamlet: In stanza fifteen, Prufrock provides an explicit allusion come Hamlet. That is a an essential moment in the poem. ~ agonizing about an “overwhelming question” that he struggles to articulate and also is specific will it is in misunderstood, he resigns himself to his shortcomings. In Prufrock’s words, “I am no Prince Hamlet, nor was intended to be.” Prufrock, in his recurring search because that his own identity, casts himself together minor player in life’s drama. For many readers, this self-definition is most likely to sound convincing. He sees self as, “Politic, cautious, and also meticulous; / complete of high sentence, however a little obtuse; at times, indeed, almost ridiculous— / Almost, at times, the Fool.” 

Allusions to modern-day Life: Along with literary allusions, Eliot makes referral to aspects of day-to-day life the are most likely to require some clarification because that students. 

In line three, Prufrock to adjust the the atmosphere by relenten the evening sky as gift “Like a patient etherised on a table.” Some students may not recognize that ether is an anesthetic that was generally used in Eliot’s time. “Etherised” method “anesthetized.” The simile is worth dwelling on. That is starkness was taken into consideration shocking once “Prufrock” was an initial published, and also it stays striking today. The image instantly announces the the poem is not a usual “love song.” A few lines later in the opened stanza, Prufrock describes “sawdust restaurants with oyster shells.” In Eliot’s time, rough-hewn, working-class restaurants would frequently spread sawdust on their floors come sop up spills. In seaside towns, oysters to be quick, easy sustenance. With this line and also the ones the come prior to it, Eliot is relenten a seedy neighborhood.The remainder of the poem is peppered through allusions come conventional day-to-day practices, most of i beg your pardon come throughout as a little stuffy and old-fashioned—taking toast and also tea, attract a high collar and a tie pin.

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At one point Prufrock expresses shock in ~ noticing hair beneath the arm bands on women’s arms. All of these habits and also concerns mark “Prufrock” together a poem from a i delivered era, but the suggest of Eliot’s harping ~ above such things still come through: Prufrock finds solace in habits and also conventions.